Social Media & Public Customer Service

There’s obviously more to running a business’ social media account than there seems to be. Otherwise we’d all be at it. But it seems that some businesses don’t really get it. I think it’s one of those things that your business either does, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then (maybe) you’re missing an opportunity and (almost certainly) you will make some people on Twitter very annoyed:

“OMG! Like, [Brand X] isn’t even on Twitter! Talk about backward! Ugh!”

Those individuals are perhaps forgetting that there’s a whole other world out there that doesn’t rely on social media in the same way that it relies on oxygen, and gets on with life just fine.

But if your business does do social media, then the expectation is that it has to be all in. There is no halfway house here. That’s even worse than not doing social media at all. And you’ve got to do it correctly. History is littered with horrendous social media own goals from just about every company ever, as the hoards of Offendatrons seeking outrage at the slightest misinterpretation or misplaced word in those 140 characters are ready to jump – loudly – all over your case.
Yes, social media is the public face of your company to anyone using Facebook or Twitter, and if you mess up there, you mess up in front of (potentially) hundreds of thousands of individuals, some of whom may once have been future customers.


Fortunately, there’s always another social media outrage bus to jump onto, and the public’s memory is short, meaning that these ‘scandals’ don’t last long.

But what if you were to use these facts to your advantage? What if you were to brand all your company’s easily-distinguishable, bright red vehicles with your twitter handle, inviting public engagement, and then used the public face of twitter to appear caring and on the ball when negative comments came your way, but then – once people had swiftly moved on – actually did nothing about addressing the problem?

Step forward then, catchily-named Sport 24 hrs Taxis – they’re @Sport24hrsSA on twitter. And I was “rather disappointed” by the quality of the driving and maintenance on one of their vehicles last week. When I contacted them on twitter, they replied within 5 minutes. Evidently, Sport 24 hrs Taxis are one of those “all-in” companies who “do” social media.

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Impressive response time. And  taking it private sounds like a plan, because actually no-one else really cares about the outcome, which will surely be something along the lines of “Sorry about all that. We’ve told the driver not to use his phone while driving and we’ve fixed the brake light”, right?

There was a hitch though – Twitter rules mean that I couldn’t DM them (send them a direct message), because they didn’t follow me on the popular microblogging service. Silly people.

Still, there are other ways to get in touch with me, as I let them know, (right after I had made the kids some dinner):

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And so they got in touch with me and they said “Sorry about all that. We’ve told the driver not to use his phone while driving and we’ve fixed the brake light”.

Except: no.
No, they didn’t. 

I’m here to tell you that once their public facade had appeared caring, helpful and concerned, I’ve not heard a single word from them on any forum. No contact whatsoever. I’m using this blog to let you know that as far as I’m aware, they’ve done absolutely nothing about the broken brake light on Taxi 26, nor have they addressed the issue of the driver using his phone and weaving all over the road at 80kph past UCT. Because surely if they had done anything about it, they would have dropped me an email or contacted me on twitter to tell me that they had. No?

So, if you publicly comment on a company’s service on twitter and they tell you that they are going to follow up, please hold them to their word and make sure they do.

And, don’t be fooled by a company responding promptly to and promising to follow up on a negative comment or observation on twitter, because the quick public response followed by fokol aksie in private approach is all too easy to use when you want to make it look like you care, but you actually don’t give a toss.

Probably someone else…

Incoming email reply from local restaurant manager begins:

You are, unless I am much mistaken, Mr @6000 on Twitter. I follow you via our [local restaurant] account and I am a fan of your twitter persona and your most entertaining and informative website.  We shall see to it that [another local restaurant] and several others become so as well. That way, they may all learn something from you.

Oh blimey. My reputation precedes me. Although it’s a bit of stretch to just think “microbiologist” and “ email address”, and assume that we are one, the same, and have a numerical pseudnym on a popular social media platform (although we are, and we do).

To be honest, it’s an even bigger stretch to call this blog “most entertaining and informative”, but hey, I’ll take it.

More customer service like this, please.

The best way to keep your word…

…is not to give it.

And yesterday, I did promise an end to the short blog posts and a return to something of normality. And then today happened.

Today wasn’t great.

Today was very busy and full of people letting me down left, right and centre. The dreaded South African customer service strikes again. Our daughter also got sent home from school, sick. [sad face]
Thus, it’s gone half past eight before I’ve even thought about having time to write stuff. And even now I’m having to get up and look after the dog because there’s an SAAF Oryx helicopter doing bumps and runs at 2 Military Hospital just down the road and it came over so low that it almost took my chimney off and blew the puppy away. Seriously. I just collected it from the garage roof.
It’s just been one of those days.

Talking of the dog, it hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory of late, either. It has covered itself with soil from underneath my lawn though. Repeatedly. But every cloud has a silver lining, and that silver lining looks likely to shine on one of the readers of 6000 miles… Should another hole “mysteriously” appear in the garden*, I will be offering a one-of-a-kind, bespoke Beagle-skin waistcoat (it won’t stretch to a full jacket, I don’t think) to a competition winner picked at random from my readership. I may even commission a silver lining, literally.

The rest of the week looks frankly terrifying equally busy, but I have high hopes and expectations of getting some decent blogging done in between the disasters and the loadshedding.


* PRO TIP: They’re not mysterious at all – the beagle is digging them.

Some good service

Sadly, SA is not noted for its customer service. Or rather, it is, but not in a good way. That’s why when I have some good customer service, I like to tell people about it. And this week has been a revelation in what other countries would call “service”, but what we here in SA call “fantastic service”. These companies should be celebrated and rewarded. I will do the celebration bit here, you sort out the rewards bit by doing business with them.
Companies must adapt or die. As this unnatural form of natural selection proceeds, so poor customer service will die out like the dinosaurs (but without massive meteorite involvement) and good customer service will evolve to be the dominant species.

Hi-Q Wynberg
After my op, I wasn’t allowed to drive for a while. And when I did want to drive, my car wouldn’t start. Even trying  to jump-start it via its big sister didn’t work and I deduced that it needed a new battery. Cue a call to Andre (021) 761 7063, who did exactly what he said he would, exactly when he said he would and got me back on the road.

Having decided that we needed to save money on electricity (who doesn’t?), we turned to Geyerwise for assistance. They got one of their distributors – Leon from Geysol (076 036 0623) – to pop around and fit our unit for us. One prompt, fast, friendly, helpful and clean job later, we are saving money on our electricity. How much, I’m not sure yet, but I’ll let you know. I’m hoping that the unit will pay for itself inside three months. After that, it’s pure saving goodness.

ADM Home Appliances
With two kids and an annual Cape Town winter, a tumble dryer is a luxury necessity. And it’s only when it goes wrong that you realise how much you rely on it. Not so much yesterday, with its 29.5°C temperatures – more on days like today with its 29.5mm+ of rain.
Ours went badly wrong last Friday and so we called in Deen from ADM Home Appliances on (021) 797 2321. He came, he saw, he took the machine away, he gave us a quote, he fixed the machine and he brought the machine back. What’s not to like?

Pool Doctor
Ironically right next door to my friends at Hi-Q (see above), Pool Doctor (021) 761 9121 dropped in right when they said they would to sort out my leaking pump. Then they sorted out the leaking pump and my pool is looking ready for summer already. This seemed like such a good idea in yesterday’s sun. Today, I’m going to see how the overflow works.

So, if you need bits for your car, to save money on your electricity bill, an appliance repaired or your pool sorted out – please give these guys a call and do your bit to promote decent customer service.

New Management Techniques

I learned a lot of new stuff last night on my management course. Last night’s topics were “dealing with conflict” and “establishing a good rapport with your customers”. These are obviously hugely important things to master when you are wanting to run a successful business. The most important thing that I discovered last night was that – contrary to the old adage – the customer is not always right. In fact, even if the customer has a valid complaint and speaks to you about it in a calm and rational manner, then you are quite at liberty to tell the customer that he “has an attitude”.


The management course in question was an impromptu affair, held at the Ocean Basket in Plumstead, Cape Town. I’m a big fan of the Ocean Basket chain of restaurants – it’s good food, it’s well cooked and they have quirky adverts which often spell the word “fish” as “feesh”. And it was for these reasons that we decided to get takeout from their Plumstead branch. Having ordered by phone and been told it would be ready in 15 minutes, we arrived at the restaurant 15 minutes later and were greeted by a very friendly lass called Robyn, who happily took our money and showed us our food, ready to go.

But uh-oh. That’s a Hake and Calamari Combo with rice and we wanted a Kingklip and chips. Just like we ordered and just like it says on the till slip, see? Never mind says Robyn – she’ll sort us a Kingklip post haste. Of course, at this point I should have remembered all the bad things that I have experienced at the hands of the South Africa Post Office. Yes, of course they are known for the speed of their service, but not in a good way.

Time passed by and pretty soon, we had been waiting half an hour, not enjoying the unenjoyable view. And so had the rest of our food, which had been placed in a prime position for looking at the funeral parlour across the road, quite literally chilling by an open window at the front of the restaurant. Which was nice. Unless you like your food warm.
As we (once again) asked Robyn to check on the status of our Kingklip and watched as she went across to talk to the restaurant manager who was barking orders from the kitchen hatch, we were bemused to see an argument begin between the two of them.

I went over to the manager and – noting how firm he was being with Robyn, impressed by his authoritative approach and anxious for my management workshop to begin – asked politely where our Kingklip was.
He grunted, like a manatee. Actually, I have no clue what noise a manatee makes, but think of what a manatee looks like and you’d imagine it grunts in a manner similar to the way in which the manager of the Ocean Basket who I was just talking about, did. Phew.

“It’s in there,” he stated (the bleeding obvious) flapping his right flipper toward the kitchen, “my Kingklip always takes 45 minutes.”
“Oh right,” I countered, mildly confused, “but your staff told us our order would be ready in 15 minutes, so…”
“They lied,” he interrupted.

I was taken a little aback. “Well, perhaps you should sort that issue out,” I suggested.
“What do you think I’m doing?” he asked, incredulous.

At this point, I resisted the huge temptation to suggest that what he was doing was not getting my Kingklip and, eyeing his somewhat portly figure, I began to wonder if he had actually eaten it himself.
Then I reminded myself that manatees are vegetarian.
Then I reminded myself that he wasn’t actually a manatee, he just had some of the physical features and the grunt of a manatee (if, as was queried earlier, manatees do in fact, grunt).

Sadly, this hypothesising took far too long and he dived, sea mammal-like, into the waves of the gap in the conversation.

“You have an attitude,” he stated.

Perhaps it was the manner in which he said it, but I had a feeling that this wasn’t a compliment. But as I was about to respond with a magnificently pertinent and witty comment that I, sir, would still be drunk in the morning (or something of that ilk), which surprisingly appeared on cue from the depths of my brain, a box of Kingklip was thrust under my nose and the moment was lost. 

After a short seethe home and some hot microwave action, we enjoyed the feesh. The Kingklip, ironically, was especially good. The service was bloody awful, but made for a blog post. What you might call a win-win situation.

If it wasn’t for the poor service.