Harnessing Social Media for Great Customer Service

I like American Eagle Outfitters. Over the years, I’ve bought many shirts and pairs of jeans or shorts at their stores and always had a good experience with them (“good” in the sense of “not bad” and unremarkable). But a couple of months ago, I had an issue which had the potential to sour my impression of American Eagle’s products. Instead, because of the great customer service team at the company, my issue was quickly resolved, and, today, I have a far more favorable view of AE than before.

Without further ado, here’s my small personal case study that demonstrates the emphasis which companies are placing on social media outlets for handling customer service issues more responsively and efficiently.

A few months ago, I was out shopping for some new clothes for the summer. The sandals I was wearing were on their last legs (so to speak), and I planned on picking up a new pair, like I do every year. I’d always worn American Eagle’s sandals and had no reason not to shop there again, so I shelled out $35 for a nice pair and was on my way.

aim for customer loyaltyWell, after about a month, the cloth piece connecting the straps to the sole snapped on one of the sandals, through no fault of my own. I dropped a few work hours’ worth of money for these things, and they break after a month? Naturally, the receipt is long gone at this point and, to put it mildly, I was not a happy customer.

At this point, I’m about to unleash my frustration on American Eagle on Facebook and Twitter and seriously considering taking out a full-page ad on the back page of the A section of the New York Times. I’m thinking something along the lines of, “If Jesus Wore These Sandals, He Would Have Fallen Right Into the Water!”

Luckily for AE, I had recently read a story in Time about unruly customers taking to Twitter and other forms of social media for resolving their customer service issues. I quelled my impulse to tell everyone and their mother how awful American Eagle is, and, instead, I sent a tweet asking for help to the company’s Twitter account.

A day or two later, I got a response from @american_eagle asking me to send them my email address in a direct message. My hope renewed, I sent it along. Several days after that, I get an email from a lovely Customer Relations Coordinator with American Eagle. Here’s a snippet of what it read:

At AE, our business is built around a tradition of quality and a commitment to service. To us, there is nothing more important than your total satisfaction. We assure you that we are continually working to improve the quality of our merchandise. To that end, we invite you to return the merchandise to one of our many stores for an exchange or an AE Gift Card. Please print a copy of this email to ensure a prompt return.

Bingo! Just like that, my experience with American Eagle changed from unpleasant to extremely impressed. There was a real possibility I would have stopped shopping there because of this one incident, but their responsiveness made me an even more loyal customer now than I was before.

More and more companies are utilizing social media platforms to be more accessible and responsive to customers. After all, there’s no predicting what can go viral on the internet and irreparably damage a company’s brand and reputation. The smart company is one which gets out ahead of criticism and engages those who may have had a less-than-satisfying experience with the business.

About a week ago, I printed out the email, went back to the store, and got a brand new pair of sandals with no hassle. This time, though, I kept the receipt.

About Sozo Firm

Sozo Firm helps startup companies, small to mid-sized businesses & nonprofit organizations thrive through developing and implementing business optimization strategies. Our efficiency consulting addresses business processes, customer service, employees, marketing, public relations, and communication. Our internet strategy consulting addresses website usability, reputation management, social media, and internet marketing. Contact our senior consultant, Andrew Jensen, at 800.460.SOZO to learn how we can serve you.

About Andrew Jensen

Andrew Jensen, a business growth, efficiency & marketing consultant, provides business advisory services for clients in the Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; York, Hanover, Lancaster & Harrisburg, PA regions. Andrew advises regarding business growth, productivity, efficiency, business startups, customer service, and online/offline marketing. Follow Andrew on Google+

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