Social media is changing everything about a customer interaction. I realized this over the past week in my experience with Cititbank.
I have a number of banking accounts with Citibank - savings, checking, overdraft protection, etc. I do all of my banking with them. I've been a customer for years mainly because they are a global bank - so I can access my money in San Francisco, Boston, New York, London or Dallas - any location where there is a Citibank. And their customer service is pretty good - all of the reps are approachable and friendly; they are generally helpful.
I have a loan with them that has an autopay. Each month, Citibank automatically pulls money out of a designated checking account to pay it. Pretty simple - many companies do this and there are few problems. However, this month has been a challenge.
The my payment should have happened on Sunday - but the system didn't transfer the payment on Sunday, or even Monday. I guess these processes don't occur over the weekend. So I got a call on Tuesday from the bank telling me that the payment wasn't made. I found it weird, but figured things happen, not a big deal. The rep told me she would make the payment. I asked her if the system would automatically try to take the payment again. She said no and not to worry.
The next day I noticed that 2 payments were made from my designated checking account and I got an overdraft charge. One payment was returned, but the loan still showed that 2 payments occured. I felt like I was getting into hot water with Citi - and I didn't even do anything except have my money in the checking account for payment.
I called twice to get this fixed.
The first call rep accused me of not making a payment, which angered me to say the least (Note to anyone in customer service - make sure you read a customer's record before you accuse a customer of ANYTHING. It just frustrates the customer and doesn't build a good relationship.) and there was no follow-up as promised.
The second call rep tried to help, but when I was transferred to customer service, something happened during the call transfer and they lost me. I didn't get a call back to finish getting things fixed.
Needless to say I was frustrated. Not only was I being penalized for doing what I was supposed to do and what Citi didn't do, I didn't feel that I should have to keep calling Citi to fix something that they caused. And I know with banks - if you don't fix it quickly, it will snowball out of control - a risk of automation without a lot of human intervention.
Late yesterday, I decided to take drastic measures. I sent @Citibank a Tweet asking for help.
Within minutes, @AskCiti, the social medial help group for Citibank, contacted me, got my phone number, and called me in less than an hour.
Rick Rodriguez, who works in Social Media for AskCiti, listened to my frustration, looked at my records, and created a plan for helping me. He called me back late yesterday to follow-up, but I was getting my hair done and couldn't take the call. I'll call back today. But in his message he told me had news - so I feel optimistic.
What did I learn here:
Social media has truly changed the customer experience and empowers customers. I could quickly and easily escalate the challenges I had to another group and got a response. I felt like Citibank truly cared about my business.
Social media has uses far beyond posting announcements about what you had for lunch or sharing links. Citibank uses it to help with service - which is awesome. I know of other corporate Twitter accounts that end up being used for that by desperate customers. It's a shame that we only use it as a bulletin board.
Social media is emerging as another customer experience channel. Now people can call, use online chat, the Web - whichever channel the customer is at ease using.
So what does this mean?
Customers have more options to communicate with companies - more than they realize.
Social media does allow for true customer interaction and relationship building - we just haven't figured out how to do it well yet.
We need to explore ways to leverage social media to engage customers beyond announcements and content sharing. Support is a great start, but sales could use it as well as other groups.
Kudos to Citibank! Hopefully more companies will follow their lead.
12/20 Follow-up: I spoke with Rick just a short time ago. He updated me on my account and assured me that I was all set (and let me know if I have more questions I can contact him. I feel relieved!). In less than 24 hours, my worries and frustrations are gone. And now I don't just think Citibank is pretty good when it comes to service - they are outstanding. I think every business should have a Twitter account like AskCiti. It's just smart business.