I had a recent experience with American Express Customer Service using social media which left me thinking there has to be a better way than what’s taking place today. My story begins with an attempt to resolve a fraud issue and several disputed charges spanning the last year.
To get things going I sent a tweet to “@americanexpress.” My tweet was simple and to the point: “@AmericanExpress as a Platinum card holder I am very disappointed in the disputes/fraud process.” My goal was to inform American Express (in the required less than 140 character format) of my cardholder status, issue, and sentiment. I purposely used multiple key words that I expected a well-configured social media Listening Post would identify and hopefully speed the process along.
After waiting 22 hours (an eon in the real-time social media space) I received no response. So I decided to take some time to research and identify an alternate American Express Twitter account, this one for American Express Customer Service. I submitted my original tweet to “@AskAmex” and a day later (although not entirely prompt) I received a response from Rachel using Visible Technologies Listening Post. (Of course I have to mention the software that American Express was using as this is the point of the article versus conveying another sad customer service story of a multi-year American Express Platinum Cardholder…)
In her response Rachel indicated she “found” my tweet. Then, working within today’s painful social media customer service experience, we were forced to “follow” each other to ensure we could communicate via “direct tweets” using the Twitter platform. Unfortunately, I did not hear back from Rachel after her initial response.
With 14,421 followers to manage I don’t necessarily blame Rachel, or the nice group at @AskAmex. But it is the symptom of a more brutal problem with the lack of maturity in social media customer service. Four days after submitting my second complaint tweet to American Express Customer Service I decided to send a gentle reminder: “RT @AskAmex: @MatthewStandish Crickets from @AskAmex exemplifying the problem with social customer service: no follow-through.”
Rachel responded after that one and we subsequently exchanged a number of “direct tweets” in which she recognized the last rather gratuitous contact I had with a Keith Herr in executive escalations. Other than this she knew very little about my overall “persona,” or to put it more simply; Who is Matt Standish?; Is he a loyal customer?; How long has he been a customer?; Is he Platinum status and for how long?; Does he make on-time payments ?; How many cards have been issued to him? I think you get the point.
To put myself in Rachel’s shoes she is attempting to triage a voluminous amount of tweets without getting sufficient help from the customer data, systems, and technology that is supposed to assist her, not to mention the customer. In the end Rachel was unable to authenticate me, unable to open a ticket, and even unable to pick up the phone and call me when requested. As of January 3rd, 2012 the following has transpired without a positive outcome:
1. 30 minutes spent “tweeting”
2. 3 open “tweets”
3. 3 “tweet” responses
4. 3 “direct tweets”
In the customer service realm we measure the voice of the customer through IVR/Web surveys, JD Power Surveys, Call Resolution Times, etc. Social customer service uses none of the measures that have been around for 25+ years! This kind of process, time consumption, and outcome would simply be unacceptable for a modern call center, and it would be unacceptable for any established business and respected brand. So why is American Express okay with this kind of social media customer service experience? Brands need to be responsible for the measurement, analytics, actions, and outcomes of their social media efforts to ensure success for themselves and their customers, and especially when it comes to customer service.
The bottom line: Rachel and her team’s attempt to triage and respond to customer tweets using four year old Listening Post technology is not a successful short or long-term strategy.