For all intents and purposes, I’m pretty sure what I’m about to talk about is just the newest model of the age-old aggressive salesperson debate. You know the drill: You walk into a shop at the mall, or a handmade/organic soap store which shall remain nameless but is notorious for its overly enthusiastic salespeople. Maybe you know what you’re looking for, maybe you’re just browsing.
A greeter at the front of the store asks, “Can I help you find anything today?” “No thanks,” you answer, “Just looking.” Cut to 10 minutes later, you’re trying to decide which scent of bath bomb you like best, when another rep wanders over, “Have you tried this one before? Let me show you how it works! Also, have you thought about using it with this product over here?” Etc. Rinse, repeat.
If you’re anything like me, it’s more uncomfortable than it is helpful, and knowing it will happen makes me hesitant to go into a store. After all, if I wanted help, I’d ask for it. “Well, that’s your own socially awkward problem,” some might say. “They’re there to sell products, they’re doing their job.” And clearly, as this practice continues to thrive and stores continue to employ it, they have a point.
All of which brings me to the topic at hand: brands’ interaction with consumers on Twitter. First, a tiny bit of clarification: When a person tweets at a specific Twitter account with the intention of the tweet appearing in that account’s notifications, it’s known as a “direct” Tweet. (“Hey, @Starbucks, love the new flavor!”)
On the other hand, when someone tweets just the name of a person/service/company without directing it at the account via an @, the kids these days call it an “indirect” [tweet]. (“omg went to Starbucks this morning and the line was so long help.”) Indirects don’t show up in a person’s notifications, one would have to do a keyword search on Starbucks to find these. So, my question: Is it annoying, even intrusive, for a brand account to search for and respond to indirects? Or is it in the name of good customer service, even a PR necessity?
In my humble (Millennial) opinion, it’s totally the former. I know how Twitter works, I know how to get an account’s attention if I need to. If I make a passing comment, yes even a complaint, about a product, I didn’t deem it important enough to take further action and, in my mind, there’s no customer service necessary. And if it’s not a negative comment that seems necessary to address for reputation purposes, what’s the aim?
I once tweeted something like “Oh hey, there’s a School of Rock musical now, who knew?” And the School of Rock account responded minutes later: “Hey, glad to see you’re enjoying it, which song are you rocking out to??” Like … chill. You wouldn’t butt into a stranger’s conversation like that IRL.
Uber is somewhat notorious for this, usually on the basis of correcting some wrongdoing or keeping an eye on their drivers. Actually, this whole post was somewhat inspired by this guy who wouldn’t snitch. Now, again, I get it. Like the guy said, he knows Uber has a business to run and rules for their drivers to follow. But in this case, it totally backfired. And why wouldn’t it? The customer wasn’t even upset, he said right there, he was laughing so hard he had to apologize.
So now you have two things happening: The customer didn’t @ you, so clearly they didn’t feel the need to get your attention, AND the customer was perfectly content, even amused, with the situation. So … what was the point of playing customer service cop again?