The Power of Social Media

The business function most commonly charged with engaging customers through social media has been the marketing department. However, the growing regularity of online communities that allow consumers to exchange information about products or services, and to compare prices among competitors, has also meant that marketers have lost control over how and where their products are presented to potential customers.  An experience I had a couple weeks ago is a perfect example of this.

Every Friday, the Bayard office in Denver orders Chipotle for lunch. Our manager orders online and then someone runs to pick up.  I am still relatively new to the company and as a way to “get some fresh mountain air” I volunteered to pick up a few times.  Every time I picked up I would drive to Chipotle, get everyone’s meal, and then drive back to the office.  Having worked at a restaurant previously, I tend to be pretty picky about my food and any modifications that I request. The first time the orders weren’t correct, I let it go.  The second and third time, I called the store manager AND went back to Chipotle to get the corrected food.  The manager I spoke with over the phone didn’t greet me when I returned to the store, but the employees apologized nevertheless and gave me the correct orders.  The fourth time it happened, I was done.  In less than 5 seconds Google directed me to Chipotle’s corporate website and I filled out an online form describing my unpleasant experiences with the company.  I waited for almost 2 weeks and after no reply, I felt I had no choice but to use the power of social media….and hey, I wasn’t happy so I didn’t leave the nicest post.

As you can see, the social media team responded to me almost immediately and, apparently, corporate had misplaced my original complaint.  What followed after this is what I’d refer to as the power of social media.

I was contacted by an HR rep after messaging my email address to the Social Media Coordinator at Chipotle.  I re-submitted the original complaint and then was contacted by the General Manager of the store that we use on Fridays.  He profusely apologized and even offered to visit our office and personally apologize to our manager!  The service didn’t stop there, however.  Corporate personally mailed me a handful of “Free Burrito” cards and then bought the ENTIRE office lunch last Friday (the total was over $100!).  Talk about service!

Social media has an important role to play in helping companies identify and address unmet customer needs. Companies can engage employees, customers, suppliers and other third parties as active participants in the innovation process, expanding the range of ideas and gathering real-time feedback on their potential take-up.  This provides an early opportunity to identify potential problems and alerts the developers to customer differences across geographic markets that need to be addressed.

With social media, I was able to solve a problem that would probably never have been resolved if I relied on more traditional methods of communication. While my e-mail to Chipotle was lost or ignored, the second I took my complaint to a public forum, it was dealt with in a competent and friendly manner. The prompt response and solutions to our problems guaranteed our return business to Chipotle. This just goes to show that more businesses need to keep in mind the power they hold in their hands when joining the social media grid.