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We've written about the potential of using social media for customer service, or at least monitoring and responding to customers' comments and complaints, and here is a great example of how valuable this can be.

Naked Wines, which launched last December, was very quick to get involved in social media; it has a Twitter account as well as a Facebook group, and this example shows the value of monitoring and responding to customers' concerns where they are talking about you.

A customer complained on the company's Facebook page about an order that hadn't been received yet. Naked Wines responded to the initial query by phone and offered a refund, but the customer took the complaint online.

Naked Wines' responded by offering the customer a full refund:

Hello , I'm sorry to hear that this isn't working out for you. We thought that we'd explained and resolved everything yesterday when we phoned you, but from your comments below you're clearly still unhappy. We have therefore refunded everything you have ever spent with us. We have also closed your account as it sounds as though we're not right for one another. Best wishes.

There was a further complaint from the customer:

I NOT RECEIVED MY REFUNDS YET HAVE NO WINE... JUST MISSING MONEY FROM MY ACCOUNT
Naked Wines' response:
We've done EVERYTHING we can possibly do for you. We have refunded EVERYTHING you have EVER spent with us from day one - as we told you twice last week. It, of course, takes several working days for the money to hit your account - we cannot speed that up! Please speak to your bank if you have an issue.
This response finally convinced the disgruntled customer, who apologised for the capitals and thanked the company. Thanks to monitoring social media - CEO Rowan Gormley tells me that Facebook groups and Twitter pages are monitored on a daily basis - the company was able to turn this complaint into positive PR, by showing other users that they will deal with customer complaints effectively and quickly.
Another added benefit was that other Facebook users backed the company up, praising their standards of service. Here are some typical comments: 
can't keep all of the people happy all of the time. Personally I think NW are doing great things for the online wine game - certainly keeping most of the people happy ALL of the time!
I am actually tempted to try Naked Wines because of the way they deal with... SHOUTING IN CAPITALS.......They seem very reasonable while she doesn't.....
what a sad misunderstanding .. I can vouch that customer services at Naked Wines are extremely customer oriented ..
Responding in public to such customer complaints requires some tact and good judgement, but when done well like this it can be a big win for a company in terms of positive PR.
It also emphasises the value of monitoring what is being said about your brand online so you can respond when necessary.
It also shows the value of setting up Facebook groups and Twitter accounts to give customers another useful channel to contact your company and an outlet for queries and complaints, as well as the reviews and praise which is common on Naked Wines' Facebook page.
Graham Charlton

Published 21 April, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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John Weet

Easy jet customer services also have a twitter account, and they obviously have searches set up. I Tweeted from an Easy Jet check in Queue the other day complaining about the whole experience. I received a tweet from Easy Jet in response with an email address to take my comments off line. I was very impressed.

over 7 years ago

Adam Tudor

Adam Tudor, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Black Hole

This is an excellent example of social media working for companies at it's best.  It's really nice seeing a company embracing social networking in full, using it positively to give it's customers an overall better experience - building loyalty & support.  I think too many companies rely on it purely as another possible sales channel and don't look at it's customer service potential - however you do need a customer base that is active and responsive in this area.

over 7 years ago

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Mark Frisk

Hmmm. Firing a customer in public. Many people would love to tell their least favorite customers where to stuff it. Some are definitely more trouble than they are worth. I think Naked Wines handled this incident well for the most part, but I am not sure about the "we've closed your account" part.

over 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

I know what you mean Mark, but firing the customer didn't seem to attract any negative comments from other Facebook users, and they did get a full refund.

over 7 years ago

Sebastian James

Sebastian James, Chief at Semmersion

Mark/Graham,

I'm impressed with NW's experience.  You have to be ready to respond when customers complain, no matter the media.

But let's say this person was stretching his point, and really didn't deserve a refund?  And the person didn't go away quietly, but became a troll, continually harassing visitors?

Trolls are well-known denizens of blogs, and I wonder how long it will take for them to fully migrate to social networks.  Personally, I haven't seen one on my FB, Ning, or TW sites.  I'd hate to have one settle because he/she was unhappy with my service or product.

Graham, are there stories of how other companies have handled trolls?

over 7 years ago

Charlie Osmond

Charlie Osmond, Chief Tease at Triptease

And let's not forget that in these cost-conscious days, online customer service can also dramatically cut telephone support costs. You only need to answer a question once, and then if you have good SEO, and others can find the issue when on google, you might save 1,000 phone calls from other people with the same problem.

NB for this to work most effectively, it's better to have the questions answered on your own branded community than it is on Facebook - where the only people who will find the Q&A will usually have had to come from Facebook.

But I would say that.

Charlie
FreshNetworks Online Communities

over 7 years ago

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Joseph Fiore

Thanks for sharing this story and advancing this topic.  I like Charlie's point about telephone support versus online customer service.  In recent time, I had two seperate incidents which required assistance from the provider - the first was a server outage which lasted a couple of days, and the second was a power outage in our area.  In the first example, the data center was out due to a fire (you can read the details here) and when I placed the call, I was immediately pointed to their online forum page for the purpose of staying updated.  The matter was so severe that no one really had any idea when power would be restored, but I was relieved to read on their forum page that the fire didn't cause any damage to the actual servers.

The second incident was a power outage that effected 250,000 people in our city.  It happened on the coldest day in winter, and I tried for hours to get through on my cellphone but it was clear from the way the call would disconnect that the phone line itself was either out, or was at over capacity with the volume of incoming calls.  Apparently, a tip had been circulating through TV and radio about running a faucet in the home to prevent water pipes from freezing, but we couldn't see these reports at our place.  Had the electricity provider posted this tip on their Website (which I might have accessed using my handheld) or even mentioned it in their phone message (which I was able to hear right before being diconnected when transferred to the call cue), it might have helped avoid this problem from happening at our place.  The outage lasted over 24 hrs and I spent over 2 hrs thawing out the pipes with a blow dryer and space heater.  

From both my experiences, I have seen the value of using the social Web as as a viable communication channel, useful for contingency planning, especially to avert reputation risk and to make your company accessible to feedback and the demands of the public as well as customers.

@RepuTrack

over 7 years ago

Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens, Social Customer Care Consultant at IBM Interactive Experience/GBS/MobileEnterprise

Just picking up on Charlie Osmond's comment above. It's a really good observation and I don't think brands in general really understand quite yet how to use and re-use customer queries effectively, whether on their branded site or elsewhere.

Social media is certainly opening up where information is placed and how it is presented. Increasingly, customers are helping themselves and each other. The challenge for brands is understanding how to integrate or work with this kind of decentralised customer service, which I believe will become the norm rather than the exception. 

over 7 years ago

Jonathan Moody

Jonathan Moody, Freelance at Language4Communications

Very interesting story and subsequent debate. Facebook and Twitter are vitally important but you need the whole picture for this to work in an integrated way: other social metworks, forums, blogs, message boards.

And it doesn't all have to be negatively focused. The Naked Wines case gives us examples of customer expressing their satisfaction and defending the company. There are also often unprompted expressions of satisfaction on myriad social media.

Picking up on this feedback is vital for customer service but also needs to be fed back to improving products, services and brands or developing new ones. Furthermore, this can and should be leveraged to add credibility to communications and marketing messages.

Social media feedback comes from former, competitor potential as well as present customers. It can fall into several categories: statements, complaints, suggestions, recommendations. Being able to analyse, filter and channel this online dialogue is the key to deriving insight and actions from it.

over 7 years ago

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Neil Martin

Step away from the hype around social media and look at Naked Wine's last response on its own merit. Is this really an example of good customer service? No. It's aggressive. It's patronising. It's sarcastic. In any other context we'd be berating Naked Wines for sending this reply. But because it's on Facebook, it's held up as a shining example - perhaps because genuinely good examples of customer service using social media are still thin on the ground. 

Social media's a trendy topic everywhere right now - but "positive PR"? For me this just makes NW look like they've lost their cool. I think the writer's been blinded by the medium here and forgotten about the message - which is just plain rude.  

about 6 years ago

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Jonathan Barnes

Great article! Companies using social media need to understand that much like customer service, it is all about listening, not shouting.

I have just posted an article about exactly this topic, I'd love to know your thoughts on my post: "Where Social Media and Customer Service Meet"

Thanks again for a great article,

Jonathan :)

almost 6 years ago

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Robert Bacal

Just entered this article into our database on social media, and labelled as bad reporting. It, and most other similar articles make huge assumptions that are unsubstantiated. For example, how many people who saw the complaints actually saw the steps taking to resolve by the company? Did they pay attention? Were they impressed enough to actually change their buying behavior? and on. It's hype and its superficial thinking. Given that the huge majority of complaints made in social media are either ignored or dealt with in private, there's no "power" except in the minds of social media shills.

almost 6 years ago

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Paul van der Made

I totally agree with Neil on this one.
The reply of NW is absolutely NOT customer friendly. Of course you will bump into customers who will try to abuse the channel.
However, keeping your cool and show respect to the customer gets you the best results in the long run.

If I would see a reply of a company like shown in the example, I'd think again before ordering something from them.

Social media requires a lot of attention. The hard part is that words can be interpreted in tons of different ways. Clear communications is harder as it seems, but very rewarding when aplied properly.

over 5 years ago

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Ben R

I joined up with Naked and my first order was fine, 10 quite good wines, 1 very good and one poor – all at a reasonable price.

After the fist batch had been drunk I gave them feedback and in return they gave me a £30 discount on my next order.

Some time later I had an email saying I had seven days to use the £30 discount. When I logged on my account showed a £30 credit. However, when I actually placed my order I was charged the full amount and the £30 credit still showed in on my account.

I sent a polite email asking them to rectify this.
The email I got back was dismissive and said that there was a minimum spend for the voucher to be valid and suggested that I bought more wine.
I replied saying that the restrictions were not shown in the email nor in the ordering process.
There response was to say “I'm sure you can appreciate that we can't dish out free wine” then they suggested I buy even more wine.

I replied again saying they were misleading customers and should close my account.

I then received a a call from Naked Wines (Aran?) who was quite clear that they don’t show the voucher has restrictions in their emails nor on the account screen but it is hidden in the terms and conditions.

…and I quote “that means we’re right”

I haven’t sworn down the phone for a long, long time but to be honest the little slime ball deserved it.

As for the wine they recommended (at £9.99 a bottle!) I drank one glass and used the rest in a casserole.

I would recommend using other wine clubs, or even going to the supermarket over Naked Wines.

about 4 years ago

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