Controlling the uncontrollable – O2’s social media master class
O2’s service outage this time last week – which led to almost 8 million customers experiencing a 24-hour blackout across the UK and Ireland – may have damaged its reputation as a reliable provider, but its social media team gave us all a lesson in how to handle an avalanche of Twitter abuse.
They were receiving “customer feedback” at a rate of one tweet every six seconds and there was an almost 5000% uplift in mentions of O2 on Twitter. Huge numbers, especially given many customers would have frustratingly been unable to tweet as their phone was not working! Rather than following the traditional corporate crisis rulebook, O2’s social media team responded to its customers (many of whom had hurled expletive-filled abuse at them) in the way you would a good friend that you had let down. They used the right tone of voice, an element of humour (as well as humility) and a personal touch. See this article in the New Statesman for some interesting examples. O2 have provided a great case study on how an organisation can turn a customer-relations and PR nightmare into a positive customer story.
In a similar vein, a colleague of mine was travelling on a London Midland train to Northampton a few weeks ago. Frustrated with the slow progress he was making and the lack of communication from the guard about the reason for the delay, he vented his frustrations via Twitter. Within 3 minutes he had an explanation for the delay and an apology – despite not having sent his Tweet directly to London Midland and it being 9pm. Suffice to say he was impressed!
In an attempt to control the uncontrollable most organisations now have a social media strategy but they vary considerably in their sophistication and success. This is unsurprising given some organisations have only recently started using email as a communication channel with customers whilst others operate entirely online. Another factor which may hinder an organisation’s ability to deal with social media is that those at the top often don’t get it:
Whilst nearly 8 in 10 youngsters are on Facebook and a third are on Twitter, just 1 in 10 business leaders are using Facebook and 6% are using Twitter in a personal capacity -making our CEO, Ben Page (@benatipsosmori), something of an exception: he’s a Twitterphile with nearly 10,000 followers!
So when today’s youth become tomorrow’s CEOs – what will the role of social media be, and how differently will service issues be handled?
Claire Emes, Head of Trends & Insight at Ipsos MORI. Follow me on Twitter: @c_emes