Monday, 30 September 2013

Complain Media: The not so social thing about social media

After an hour and a half of driving in the uncharacteristic northern heat, we arrived in Blackpool. The wrong end of Blackpool that is, as my Sat Nav seemed to think that the Blackpool Pleasure Beach was around a mile inland from the North Pier when in fact it is apparently about a 30 minute tram journey in the other direction, on the coast by the South Pier. To say I was a little narked off would be an understatement. Still, it was a Saturday and there was not a cloud in the blue sky and so I was prepared to be pleasured at the Pleasure Beach. After a queue that is. A queue that lasted one hour fifteen minutes. 1.15 hours. ONE HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES! It lasted a tray of chips, about 13 loops of the Pleasure Beach CD, a approximately 3 hen parties and at least 5 facial tattoos.

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We had paid for our ticket online and in advance. Why? Because we're modern cosmopolitan young people who thought it was the thing to do, pay in advance, so ya don't queue at the box office when you arrive. Champion. 

Apparently Blackpool Pleasure Beach is a little more backward than I had anticipated. Despite the fact that we had paid in advance, we had to join the mammoth queue that started outside, then split in two, one arm snaking around the outside of the box-office building and in again and the other into the building, back out at the other end and the into another building, before you were allowed the option to join the other queue because your queue apparently only had 3 operatives working it and the other had around 18. Unbelievable.

So, my point? I was hacked off and what did I do, I tweeted. I would never have bothered to contact Pleasure Beach's official complaints line, or write them an email because, I can't be arsed, I wasn't being beaten by a roller-coaster steward or anything and I'm not going to go back there anyway. But Twitter is just so darn easy and I could do it from the queue I was stuck in! 

Now, I actually didn't tweet any expletives and I wasn't prolific in voicing my disgust at this blatant lack of organisation. Why? Because I work in marketing and social media and I know what it's like to deal with this sh*t when you're not trained customer services personnel. Still, I tweeted nonetheless because, really, I mean really, it just wasn't on. Yes it was a nice day, yes lots of people had bought online and yes we'd all saved a tenner in doing so but, ya know what, so what? Why didn't we arrive, punch a redemption code into a machine and get our tickets spat out at us like one does at a train station. Anyway, social media is a place to be social, it's where our internet selves live and talk in hashtags to each other and so it's only natural to assume that I would turn to social media for things other than #xfactor, things that get on my nerves. But are the brands, retailers, businesses we're annoyed at ready for it?

The options currently presented the disgruntled consumer: call a customer support team and get stuck on hold, email a customer support address and get ignored or Tweet a complaint and get a response fired back from a marketing executive who is desperate to not start a fight on Facebook because that would be a pretty shitty thing to have to discuss in their annual review. I chose the latter, obviously.

Brands and retailers with or without presence on social media need to bridge the gap between marketing and customer service. Social media is about talking with your customer base, on their terms, in their space. You can promote all you want and you can engage all you can, but when the shit hits the fan, have a strategy in place to deal with it and have customer service and Customer Services at the heart of this response. 

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Some brands are terrific at this, @ASOS_HereToHelp is one fine example of a customer services mechanic using social media to make a consumer's journey more satisfactory. @ManAirport are another and there are others, but there are also many many examples where the brands fall short.

Where does Blackpool Pleasure Beach sit amongst this scale? They weren't half bad tell you the truth, but that queue was too bitching to be repeated, so long Pleasure Beach.

: In mammoth queue to get into , and the point of buying in advance was??

@jordanjmcdowell Remember you saved a huge amount on your wristbands (£20 instead of £29.99) and we're open later until 9pm tonight! :) 

: @Pleasure_Beach well, it's end of season, that's why we saved. Queue management is still appalling.

@jordanjmcdowell Season in Blackpool doesn't end until the end of the Illuminations on November 10th.

: @Pleasure_Beach as admirable as it is to receive response over the w/kend, arguing with customers is neither cute nor helpful.

Or perhaps I'm just one of those narky tits?