How vodafone used social media to win me over

I love upgrade time. I thought I would use the upgrade to get myself an Android handset as I am not really into the iPhone and wanted to try making an Android application. So, it was with excitement that I popped into my service providers store to find out what I could get. That’s where my problems with them started.

I won’t go into too much detail about what they did wrong, but I was slowly shepherded to the call centre. They don’t upgrade in store on your upgrade date, the on-line upgrade feature returns a message saying the service is unavailable so please call them, and an email returned an auto responder a day later saying they would respond within five days. The inevitable call centre conversation I had been trying to avoid left me angry and disappointed with their service. I told them I would be leaving them at the earliest opportunity.

When I was a barman, many moons ago, the boss would regularly tell me “if a customer has a good experience, they’ll tell 3 people, if they have a bad one, they’ll tell 20.” Well, nowadays, with social media at everyone’s fingertips, that figure is significantly higher. I felt an irresistible urge to tell people how badly I felt my soon to be ex-provider had dealt with me. So I tweeted about it. They had turned me from a brand advocate into a brand derogate, and I was pretty sure they didn’t really care.

I even looked around for their twitter account so I could direct my anger, in the hopes that they would understand my disappointment and possibly even convince me to stick around. The only account I found had protected tweets and a bio that read “Saved for future use”. It seems it is their account though as it links to the official website, although I can’t know for certain.

After a final disappointing conversation with their customer service, I tweeted about it again. A few minutes later, my TweetDeck made a little noise and I looked over to see the Vodafone logo staring at me from my mentions panel.

“@tfletcherjones I’m sorry you felt let down by [your providers] customer services. Check our range of phones here

This made me smile. It was Cheeky. I like cheeky, I have a 3 year old daughter, so I have to like cheeky. There was a big void left where my good will toward my network used to be, and Vodafone, having overheard my comments, sidled over and planted themselves in it.

I appreciated this; it was interesting to see the two opposite ends of the spectrum in action. my own provider unavailable for dialogue and Vodafone watching the social networks for opportunities. I didn’t really think any more of it though as I still had some time to go on my contract, so was pretty stuck. I mentioned this to Vodafone, with added smiley face, assuming this would be the last I heard. It wasn’t. They quickly tweeted me a link to a contact form, and a code to add to the subject field which put me in touch with their “Web Relations” team, and seemingly with the very person I had just been speaking to over twitter.

Ok, I can’t be sure that Ben and Helen are real people and not call centre type aliases, but the conversations I have had with the Vodafone Web Relations team via email have left me feeling very satisfied that Vodafone would be a good choice of provider once I have escaped my current network’s clutches. A discussion with the Web Relations team left me feeling listened to instead of sold to. They knew about Android handsets, giving me a quick summary of what they had and news on their talks with HTC about stocking 2 new handsets which they would keep me informed about.

I saw them as forward thinking and clever when they contacted me over twitter, but to really use social media successfully you have to have a strategy, and these guys followed up on that original point of contact so well, and with such a specific tone, that I think they have it nailed. Others could take a valuable lesson from Ben at the Vodafone Web Relations team. I just hope they can keep up that level of customer service when I move over to a contract with them.

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