O2’s Twitter team: Taming the trolls or provoking customers?by
Is 02's Twitter banter with angry customers' tweets a clever way of dealing with trolling or an irresponsible approach to service?
The O2 service failure has left customers outraged. After a 24-hour blackout last Wednesday, many of its 8m customers were unable to receive or send calls and texts or access data. The network was eventually restored the following afternoon - but by that time angry customers had flocked to Twitter to let O2 know exactly what they thought of the service failure and the brand.
However, bombarded with hateful tweets, the in-house social media team behind the O2 Twitter account has responded in a very interesting fashion. Rather than the usual straightjacketed corporate tone typically doled out in crisis communications, the O2 account is attempting to get through the nightmare with some light humour and personality.
And O2 was subjected to some some truly shocking tweets (look away now if you are easily offended!):
And some people were really, really angry:
But humour was doled out to lighten the mood:
Which went down well with some of the network's customers:
O2 was reluctant to name (and potentially shame - depending on your view) the man behind the mask and instead told MyCustomer.com: "Clearly we're not happy that we've disappointed our customers over the last 24 hours, but it's good to hear that some have enjoyed our tweets!"
But had it struck the right tone to respond to frustrated customers in a crisis like this or is it only going to provoke them further?
One advocate for O2's response strategy is Julian Heerdegen, CRM Evangelist at SugarCRM, who argued that a politically correct and sober message of crisis communication might make you look somewhat hapless.
He said: "Is it the right tone to respond to a service failure? No. Is it risky? Yes. Does it work? Yes!
"O2 took an unconventional and flexible approach to gain back some control over the conversation – and the online sphere so far gives them credit for doing so."
Kelda Wallis, new business manager at Tempero, believes that although the network chose a potentially risqué path, it paid off and showed they were taking the matter seriously.
She said: "Risqué tweets aside, O2 did a really great job of showing their human side, by crafting unique rather than the standard ‘copy & paste’ responses. At times, they were definitely pushing the boundaries, but they clearly understand the platform and thought it was worth taking the risk."
Even Twitter's own UK Director, Bruce Daisley, came out in support of O2 with a tweet that read: "Wonderful day's work from O2's Twitter account yesterday. Wrote the rule book."
But not all are convinced that it is the best approach.
PR consultant Sean Fleming argued that although initially a clever move from the mobile network, they took the entertainment too far.
Harriet Clarke, who sits on the Internet Advertising Bureau's social media council, believes humanisation is a key word that should run through all marketers social strategies.
She said: "Talking to a customer as a human, being transparent and responding in a timely manner is crucial for any brands social media success and reputation.
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O2 was faced witha huge problem when their service went out, and I think that they handled it very well. One of the most important aspects of social customer service is that a company needs to respond to all of its customers. Due to the public nature of the Internet, leaving unanswered Twitter messages allows any user to see that customers are being ignored, and it reflects very badly on a company. O2 definitely did this, by even replying to the more inappropriate messages that they were receiving. Their choice to use humour was definitely a risky one. Some customers reacted negatively towards it, but it's impossible to please everyone. I think that they did a great job of providing fast customer service and still maintaining their brand image.
Conversocial covered O2's handling of their recent crisis on our blog found here: http://www.conversocial.com/blog/entry/o2-when-social-customer-service-is-done-right
I am a very busy person, I don't have time to go on twitter or facebook to see what O2 are saying. When my service crashed it really hurt me. Once it was fixed, well, I expect O2 felt I should be grateful everything was up and running again and just carry on using their network. No O2, that's not how it works. You have a wide range of customers and you need to communicate better with all of them, in the manner they prefer. I don't prefer twitter, so being clever and "funny" about the crisis on that media means [***] all to me.
It s now Monday, a weekend has passed, and I've heard sweet fa from O2. No email, no text, nothing. Thanks so much for ignoring me, I shall definitely move away when my contract expires. Its not the downtime that worries me, that's technology for you, it's the fact that I'm anonymous!!
Thanks for your comments, both.
Marie - I also thought it was an effective way of dealing with inappropriate messages but perhaps teetered a little too close to the edge. I guess it's easy to see the funny side when you're not an affected customer.
But from O2's perspective, a good point in your article that their witty response helped shift the tweets received from complaints to praise.
Delmeister - If you had tweeted O2, how would you have felt receiving such a response?
sphere O2 took an unusual & flexible approach to grow back some manages over the conversation & the online field so far offers them credit for doing so. http://www.tweets123.com/category/christmas-tweets
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That was such a clever communication. However, count on to those positive one though there are bushers who are trying to ruin the reputation of the company. We all know that it's not easy to please everyone. - facebook for photographers