Charm lessons: A case study in social media customer service

November 6, 2011

Unless you’re throwing napkins at diners at Dick’s Last Resort or pouring drafts for molten lava men at Peter Griffin’s baseball umpire bar, there are certain phrases best avoided when addressing paying, law-abiding customers, especially when doing so over the air on social media.

Somewhere near the top of that list are “don’t come back” and “your standards are too high,” both of which the account for South Florida burger chain Charm City Burger Company, in so many words, tweeted in response to what appeared to be reasonable consumer complaints.

View the story “Case study: How not to handle customer complaints in the social space” on Storify

The above Twitter conversation didn’t quite go viral, but, for a local business in an industry as competitive as restaurants selling something as ubiquitous as hamburgers, it made more of a splash than it had to and than managers probably would have liked.

Heck, it landed on my radar, 1,000 miles away in Baltimore, although in part because Charm City is one of Baltimore’s nicknames.

What makes the back-and-forth particularly confounding is that the restaurant account’s first response was spot-on and that, according to the author of the Storify above, the chain had been widely praised for its social media savvy. To the account administrator’s credit, the answers to the customer, as of this writing, had not been deleted.

Based on the timing of the restaurant account’s tweets – the morning after the initial complaint – and the platform from which they were published – an iPhone – one can envision what might have happened.

The urgency of being hours behind negative feedback mixed with the false intimacy of a mobile device can be a dangerous cocktail. Whether or not this is what occurred here, it’s a good reminder for anyone who communicates on social media on behalf of a brand, be it an organization’s brand or your own. Before you post, detach yourself from the emotion of the situation and play the tape forward while you can still rewind it.

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