mediatemple tweet
August 18th, 2011

When service becomes a performance

Tom Boutell
Chief Software Architect

This is intriguing on a number of levels.

This guy tweeted that he sure wanted a Morton's Steakhouse steak waiting for him at Newark International Airport. And lo and behold, there it was, etc.
People pointed out that maybe they only did it because he has 100,000 twitter followers. He countered that Morton's regularly responds to people who mention them on twitter, so they might've done this for anybody. Or, as he acknowledged, perhaps did it for him because they have a good customer relationship management system and know who their big fans are.
I have mixed feelings about this kind of thing. On the one hand, it could be an indication that a company gives a flying duck about making their customers happy, all the time. A genuine signal, in other words. On the other hand, it could be like a recent customer service experience in which I couldn't get any love on trouble tickets but got prompt results by tweeting. The company told me to tweet for better service in the future.
If a company operates that way then their high-profile helpfulness is a false signal, sent to give an overall impression that service is always good. That sort of behavior should not be rewarded.
To be clear, I'm not assuming Morton's is like that at all. But experience with other companies have led me to pay more attention to how a firm behaves when a customer is not broadcasting their experience. Because I don't have time to stage a dramatic production for public consumption every time I need reasonable service.
When customer service becomes a public performance, there's a risk that only squeaky wheels will get service. This is what I do not want to hear when I've already tried to request support from your company in the way you recommend:

 So mad props (and the benefit of the doubt) to Morton's Steakhouse, which obviously made this guy a loyal and happy customer well before he started receiving twittersteaks. But other companies should think twice before assuming you can get away with providing good service only to the loudest tweeters. The public performance should be the tip of the iceberg, not the entire story. People will also tweet (and blog) their frustration and disapproval when they catch you faking it.

Tom Boutell
Chief Software Architect

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