We’ve long been advocates of using Twitter for customer service when the regular channels of customer service don’t work. There’s something about the combination of pithy microblog updates and public posting that some companies have done very well, and that others have been unable to manage. Others are giving up on the platform entirely.If you can get help via Twitter, that turns you into a VIP, and that made Lindsay Robertson of The Awl uncomfortable after she used Twitter to complain to Home Depot about her backordered air conditioner.
This story is an impressive example of “above and beyond” customer service. Robertson learned that the air conditioner she had ordered well before hot weather began would be delayed for two weeks. She fired off a quick tweet to the company, one morning and they moved heaven, earth, and an 8,000 BTU air conditioner to get her what she wanted. Only it wasn’t a bespoke-suited Home Depot executive or a team of burly delivery men at her door at 11 P.M. that very same day. It was a pair of managers from a local store, using their personal vehicles and clearly quite tired. She wrote:
Close to 11 p.m., the buzzer rang, and I went downstairs to let in not the burly delivery guys I was expecting, but an older man and a petite middle-aged woman, who struggled to carry the heavy 8,000 BTU unit together up one flight of stairs. Shocked, I quickly figured the story out: these visibly exhausted people were store managers, who had already worked all day and had nothing to do with the company’s online error. And I was the reason they had to drive from Queens to south Brooklyn in Friday night traffic for this errand instead of being home with their kids. I thanked them profusely and awkwardly handed the woman the $20 I had in my pocket as a tip, and they left.
Richardson feels guilty about this entire incident now, and tells this story to illustrate to Awl readers how one should never use Twitter for customer service. “It’s true that, had I known I would ruin someone’s day, I would have gone through the usual channels and ended up waiting for my air conditioner the way we all did before social media,” she wrote. Back in that dark, dark time, she could have sent a sternly worded letter and received her air conditioner…maybe a week earlier than scheduled.
Is getting what you want worth ruining someone’s day? It depends on what you want, and how badly your day has been ruined. “Oh my god, New York is going to eat this nice lady alive,” wrote one cynical but insightful Awl commenter.
In this case, Home Depot’s spectacular effort was overkill for the situation. If she had been roasting in her apartment with her frail grandmother and also seven months pregnant with twins, that would be worth the effort Home Depot laid out. No question and no guilt.