Social Media in Customer Service?

Social Media in Customer Service

Social Media in Customer Service?
It still hasn’t quite arrived in the US

Even large companies are having a hard time with implementing social media into their customer service strategy. Most customer inquiries are via Twitter, but Facebook has the highest response rate.. I had to learn that the hard way.

Thanks to my French origins, I love to cook. As a working German mother, I always make the effort to keep my kitchen clean and organized, and I’m usually successful. After a long time searching for a reliable maid, I finally found her. But when I asked her to clean out our oven, she showed me the self-cleaning function on the oven. It took me a while to finally tackle the task, but to keep it short: it was more than 10 days until I could finally use my oven again. The locking mechanism had melted during the self-cleaning and I couldn’t open the oven door.

I’m actually convinced that American companies have been more successful in integrating digital media into their marketing than have their European counterparts. I wrote about it in this blog post. But now I know that this doesn’t apply to customer service.

Social Media in Customer Service with Whirlpool (USA)

Two weeks ago I stood in front of my locked oven door. I didn’t know what to do. There were no answers on the website’s FAQ, there was no information in the user’s manual. I couldn’t find a telephone number on the website and eventually ended up on the contact page at It was there that my one problem (the locked oven door) led to the next.

Problem No. 1:
In order to send an inquiry via the contact page, I needed to enter the serial number for the oven, which can be found on the inside of the oven. Of the oven I couldn’t open. Yes, the field for the serial number was a required field. Without it, I couldn’t send the form.

Problem No. 2:
Since I couldn’t call Whirlpool or send an e-mail, I decided to try my luck on Twitter, where I found @WhirlpoolUSA. I had read somewhere that Americans expect a reply within an hour when they use Twitter. After 24 hours of radio silence, I re-doubled my efforts and sent another Tweet.

Problem No. 3:
At some point, @WhirlpoolCare responded. It was clear that the social media team wasn’t very familiar with how to use Twitter. While they were right to ask me to use a direct message (DM) to send my name, address, and telephone number, this information is only kept private if the sender and receiver follow each other. In other words, I had to follow @WhirlpoolCare and they had to follow me @rochereul so that our exchange didn’t appear on their or my timeline.

Problem No. 4:
48 hours after the meltdown, Whirlpool had my name, telephone number, and address and had promised to contact me. Two days later I was still waiting.

Luckily my husband had plans to bake a cake for Mothers Day! Annoyed with the situation, he found the hotline number. This was no mere act. The next day and after 25 minutes of waiting, I finally had another human being on the other end of the line. 4 days later my oven was repaired.

For Customer Service, Facebook Before Twitter

It’s no secret that German companies generally don’t use social media for customer service, but I didn’t expect it to be so in the US. Interestingly, SocialBakers has recently published some interesting numbers regarding the phenomenon, which are particularly enlightening:
− Only 4% of all companies use Facebook in their customer service
− The amount on Twitter is even smaller (3%)
− Interaction between users and companies is very dependent on the industry. Customers of telecommunication companies, airlines, and banks have the best chances of getting a reply.
− 74% of all inquiries on Facebook receive a response, considerably higher than on Twitter (30%)
− Despite that, more inquiries are made on Twitter (6.5 million) than on Facebook (1.4 million).

So it’s no wonder that I wasn’t successful in reaching out to Whirlpool. But I did learn one thing from this: When my husband is affected, then he’s more inclined to help me. And in the future I’ll only use Facebook for customer service, if at all.

You might also be interested in reading these articles “The Challenge of Cross-border Communication” or “New Media: French SMEs are lagging behind

Photo credit: © leszekglasner

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  • Ich glaube, die aktuellen Social Media Kanäle sind einfach nicht geeignet für einen systematischen Kundensupport. Die Schwierigkeiten bzgl. Kontaktdatenübergabe und Datenschutz, die Du beschrieben hast, zeigen das ganz gut.
    Vor einiger Zeit ging hier in Deutschland übrigens die nette Story über den Twitter Supportversuch von der Deutschen Bahn durch die Marketingabteilungen:

    • Genau. Es sei dem du bist ein Telekommunikationsriese and hast frühzeitig angefangen, ein Social Media Team für Kundenanfrage aufzubauen. @Telekom_hilft ist ein gutes Beispiel dafür.

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