Depending on your perspective you may view social media as either panacea or money pit when delivering a customer experience.  Molly Flatt considers a similar question in her article Social customer service: a must-have or a let-down?  The answer is (c) both of the above, as the following example illustrates.

national_avis

‏@SeanWilliams : Here’s the amazing view outside of my hotel. #glamourous #businesstravel http://instagr.am/p/TGrex9LwIH/ 

@NationalPro : @SeanWilliams Great use of X-Pro, though! Where are you visiting? #businesstravel

@SeanWilliams : @NationalPro SFO. Got an @aviswetryharder this time, but it smells like old oysters.

@aviswetryharder : @SeanWilliams I’m so sorry about that! Have you contacted CS? custserv@avis.com or 1.800.352.7900

@NationalPro : @SeanWilliams We still hope you have a great trip! Can we make it sweeter with a holiday gift from National? DM us your address. #GoLikeaPro

The differences are striking.

  • National Monitors the Twittersphere – I’ll bet National monitors several different hashtags.  In some it spots problems.  In others (like this example of #businesstravel) National finds opportunities to beat its competitor(s).  Here they sought out and found an opportunity to engage with someone who wasn’t even their customer.
  • National Adds a Personal Touch – You can tell that National’s note was written by a person for a person.
  • National Offers an Unexpected Gift – I wonder how National planned to make the trip better.  Maybe their “sweet” offer was a rebate on future rentals.  It doesn’t really matter what the gift is but my guess is that it would (a) differentiate National from the competition and (b) be meaningful to their customers.
  • Avis (sort of) Monitors the Twittersphere  – Their strategy seems to be: respond, but just barely.   Call customer service?  This is trying harder? Really?

Integrating social media into a customer experience strategy is a divisive flashpoint for good reason.  To do it well takes a solid strategy and strong execution.  Do it any other way and you’ll end up looking like Avis.  Here are some worthwhile resources to consult when mapping out your social media customer experience plan.

In the end, National proves the pivot point: like so many other things in business, a well-conceived and executed social media customer experience strategy keeps customers happy and beats the competition.  Avis, meanwhile, proves that (c) is the correct answer.  Next time Avis, try even harder.

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