Monday, October 5, 2009

Turning an adversary into an advocate: How 24 Hour Fitness customer #twervice got it right

About a week ago, I was informed by my wife that 24 Hour Fitness had erroneously been charging us for memberships we had assumed had been canceled a couple of months back.

After a few expletives about the situation I did what any rational and mature person with a variety of social media tools and networks at their disposal would do:

I complained about it on Twitter.

(Ok, so that may not have been fair, but it made me feel better.) Actually, I said aloud right before I posted my little note, "I wonder if anybody at 24 Hour is listening."

Sure enough, they were.

30 minutes later I received an e-mail from Randy Drake (Senior Vice President - Fitness & Business Development at 24 Hour Fitness) with the subject line: Issue with cancellation.

So they were listening, on a Friday evening, and more importantly they were willing to get the matter straightened out. I commended Randy for paying attention and "listening" on Twitter. It just shows how important the network is for engagement. Mr. Drake's e-mail correspondence was thoughtful, expressed concern about the situation for our family, and has offered to make things right. (Disclosure: We are still in the discussion portion of this situation on how to resolve the issue.)

Winning over an adversary
What I think is most interesting about this episode is the fact that 24 Hour Fitness did a great job of turning an otherwise tough situation for a disgruntled member (or former member) into something that more resembles fostering a brand advocate. Regardless of whether or not we continue using their organization for our family's fitness needs, the attention to details and response was excellent and had a positive impact.

Granted, not all customer service interactions are adversarial in nature. Sometimes they are informational or  transactional. Whatever the case, being open to listening to interactions, questions, and even silly rants is an important customer service step for companies and organizations to grasp.

Customer Twervice
For additional thoughts on the matter with research, make sure you dig into Jason Falls' report Customer Twervice: Exploring Case Studies & Best Practices In Customer Service efforts Using Twitter where he presents "10 companies, how they started their Twitter efforts, their strategic approach, how much time and resources they devote."

The report includes a list of Twitter Customer Service Best Practices:

1. Be Present
2.Walk Before You Run
3. Be Prepared For Scale, But Expect A Slow Growth
4. Have A Quarterback
5. Making Rules Is Prohibitive
6. Immediacy Is Imperative
7. Look For Buy-In Opportunity

Get the report for thoughts on each of the above points. The Customer Twervice report by Jason Falls is a great read for anyone considering or actively engaging in customer service via Twitter.
Do you have any examples of good customer service engagement in Twitter? What about other social networks?  Is your company using the social web for customer service? Why or why not?

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