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If you’ve travelled via rail in the UK, you’ve likely interacted with service workers – and we’re not talking about the folks checking tickets.

Apparently, this mode of transportation is well known for its disappointing service and the anger it incites on a daily basis. And this adds an extra, important layer to the art of customer service for rail representatives – social media monitoring skills.

Sorry State of Things

British Rail companies are using social media to say they are sorry to their customers, but it’s nowhere near a typical response rate – “The Great Western team has issued 30,000 apologies since the start of the year, an average of 110 per day. (Only one company, the Northern, apologizes more.) Customers pepper the Great Western Twitter feed, @GWRHelp, about 1,000 times every 24 hours.”

And the sentiment around its efforts are hanging on by a thread, with a Net Sentiment score of 19% (on a measure from -100 to +100):

“Compliments regularly pop up, too, but those are outnumbered by gripes about doors that won’t open, inexplicable odors, reservation mix-ups and more. People routinely post photographs of crowded trains, or trash that has been left by other passengers.”

What’s a beleaguered train service representative to do?

The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Customer Service

There are definite do’s and don’ts to saying sorry. Robyn Hannah offers some keen insight on Apology 101 via Forbes: Be clear about it, get it done quickly, send a consistent message – and, the cincher, promise to do better. The trickiest part of that last bit is actually following through and doing better.

As it stands, the customer service on social seem to be, like many companies, siloed from those running the trains, so the “service” they’re able to offer often leads to frustration for people trying to make connections caused by late arrivals and so on.

Having social customer service is awesome – and essential – but it has to be done well.

Otherwise, businesses are better off not doing it at all. But that means leaving customers in the dark when they reach out (as they still will attempt to), and that’s as good as sending them directly to your socially savvy competitor. So, the only real option here is to sort out social and get it done in a way that enhances, rather than hinders, your offering.

With hashtags added to many of the tweets, like #whenwillwelearn, #ripoffservice and #thisisnotgoodenough, it seems they have an uphill battle to fight. And although they attempt to personalize things by signing each response individually, they need to create more tangible incentives and recognition for consumers, so they feel understood and appreciated when their day is sent sideways by a scheduling snafu.

Enlisting influencers helps. The Man in Seat 61, @seatsixtyone, seems a good choice to provide some positive promotion for the line, just by retweeting his experiences, even. He’s a credible voice in the category.

Or, better still – Alex, @thermoflynamics, who has an exceptional bit of influence in the space and beyond! He lost his hat and GWR Help offered to retweet him and directed him to lost and found – but why not go a step beyond that? Think of the positive sentiment they could create by replacing his hat? And maybe adding a quick note about healing the hat-shaped hole in his heart? The possibilities – and potential – are legion.

It’s the kind of empowerment that social customer service reps need to be successful. Opportunities like these happen all the time. And finding these influencers, and more like them, is as easy as clicking on the Influencers card in NetBase Pro:

Even with influencers in their pocket and a railway car full of social savvy, real-time sentiment monitoring would help immensely. Finding moments to increase the love will do more for them in the long-run than apologizing powerlessly nonstop. You can be pretty sure this latest news to break from one of its stations isn’t helping, and no amount of “I’m sorry” will make it better for a whole bunch of affected people:

Saying sorry may not make it right, and neither will a new hat – but the latter offers a more personal and meaningful approach that will win out long-term.

We can help you stay ahead of sentiment requiring apologies. Contact us for a demo!

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