Chipotle Love or: How to Use Social Media to Build a Better Customer Service Experience

Most of us gave up on calling customer service lines when everything went automated. What’s the point when you can’t get a hold of anyone on the other end? Instead of resolving a problem with a helpful person at the company, we fume and rant and tell all of our friends how we were hurt/displeased/screwed over/ripped off by one service or company or another.

Automating customer service didn’t improve customer experiences. It just allowed big companies to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that everything was fine. After all, if only a handful of people have the audacity to get through your automated phone tree, your company’s problems “look” a little better than they are, and you can avoid making any changes for a little bit longer… until sales start to tank and somebody needs to take the blame.

I’ve spoken to a lot of companies who are terrified of social media. “What if they tell us something is wrong?” “What if they tell us about a bad experience?”

Well, fix it.

I hate to say it, but customer feedback is what social media is for. It’s a cheap, easy way to listen. No more customer comment cards. No more 20-minute hold times on a customer service line that just gets your customer more upset. No more eighteen layers between the customer’s experience and somebody working directly next to the VP of Operations who can get the answer to your question straight from the source.

And the REALLY great thing about social media? You can instantly respond, resolve, track, and monitor customer issues right there from your corporate headquarters without employing a ton of people. If you have multiple locations, you can even track how well a location is performing by monitoring what you’re hearing online.

Here’s a great example. A few weeks ago I went into a local Chipotle and had an employee tell me that they were discontinuing their Chipotle Tabasco sauce, and that’s why there wasn’t any out in the condiment area.

Now, if you’re a Chipotle fan like me who loves hot sauce, this is probably freaking you out. Chipotle getting rid of their signature Chipotle Tabasco? Say it isn’t so! I was so concerned about this that I went straight from lunch to the Chipotle Facebook page and said where I had lunch and asked if this rumor was true.

Within five minutes, the Chipotle rep said he had confirmed that this was NOT true and must have been an issue with miscommunication at the restaurant level between employees and management.

Two hours later, the Chipotle location I’d dined at personally called me to ask how my Chipotle experience had been (I’d ordered online, so they had my name and phone number).

Talk about customer service!

Not only did they stop me from spreading misinformation to friends and family, but corporate took the time to let the location know about the issue, and the location took the time to personally contact me about my experience (and likely also let their employees know not to answer questions they don’t know the answer to. “We don’t have any right now” is different from “We won’t have any ever.”).

I was already a loyal Chipotle fan… but this incident inspired a whole new wave of Chipotle-love that I shared with friends and family… and made the subject of this blog post.

It’s not hard to “fix” a customer issue if your business is committed to being better. If you’re in it for the short-term profit, well… No, social media is not for you. Engaging with fans means you’re open to improving your customers’ experience. You’re dedicated to building and growing a better business. Today, businesses who are terrified of social media start to look like they’ve got something to hide, just like those businesses with the complex phone trees.

Are you ready to make an investment in your business, or do you just want a quick buck? Satisfied customers are lifetime customers who will spend that lifetime converting family and friends. Unhappy customers just make more “never customers” through negative word of mouth.

What kind of customers do you want to have?

Penny Ohlmann Neimann

The Ohlmann Group has a rich history that began in Dayton, Ohio in 1949, where the agency was founded as Penny and Penny by Bob Penny and his wife Jean. In 1964, Walter Ohlmann joined the firm. Ralph Neiman came on in 1969 and the firm became Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman. In 2011, P/O/N was renamed The Ohlmann Group to better reflect the agency's ongoing evolution and collaborative nature.

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