A friend of mine was telling me a very interesting story the other day. On Good Friday this year, he took his family to a well-known Pizza chain. He is a bit of a regular and quite a fan. Knowing this, he always arrives at opening time so there is no wait and he can grab the good seats. However, on arrival he noticed that there was only 2 staff on which he thought strange for Good Friday, especially as it was the school holidays and the eatery was at a big retail park. Not one to not know a reason, he questioned the manager who replied with “well, we looked at the books for Good Friday last year and it was really quiet”. My friend then pointed out that Good Friday 2012 was a heat wave and most families with young kids would have been enjoying the sun either on the beach, in the park or having a BBQ in the garden. He did not tell me the look on the manager’s face but it was not long before the place started filling up rapidly and sooner rather than later, people were being turned away. Some customers were waiting so long that they lost patience and walked away and some people just didn't go in. Here’s where it starts to get interesting. My friend likes to use Twitter and thought he would drop the pizza company’s Twitter account a tweet pointing out what was going on, which went like this: “Car crash at your restaurant, 20+ people turned away due to understaffing.” Followed up by: “Car crash customer service. People now leaving without food arriving.” Well, as this was a bank holiday there was no reply and whoever managed their account was off until the Tuesday, 4 days after the event. My friend was subsequently annoyed that they had not responded but even more annoyed when the reply came through saying: “Here is an e-mail address you can reply to.” In his opinion, and mine too, this this is not good customer service; this is a fob off. My friend understands branding and brand reputation and wasn't going to let it lie, so he tweeted: “Just like the staff in your restaurant, you don’t appear to be bothered, so no. Bye.” This did get a response and, following a few DM’s and a phone call from my friend, the pizza company are now looking at how they will improve their social media to improve customer service. Now, here is what could have happened had their social media been managed better. This tweet would have instantly been picked up by customer service and the opportunity could have been better handled with a tweet saying: “our restaurant is really busy at the moment so might be worth avoiding until it quietens down” followed by the hash tag “#pizzastaff are you free to put in a few hours extra work? #NEfollowers”. Even “apologies for the delays at our restaurant, have a drink on us” would have helped but, most of all, a response to my friend acknowledging and thanking him for making them aware. I’m sure some of this would not sit well with some corporates, but saying a restaurant is busy indicates that the food is good and it would also avoid disappointment from loyal customers. Remember; if people have a bad experience they will tell about 30 people so if everyone in that restaurant told 30 people, 600 people could potentially be put off going to this restaurant. Too often we focus on sharing our knowledge on offering special offers on social media without using it effectively to support our current client base. Ivan Misner (@Ivanmisner), Founder of Business Network International, the world’s leading referral organisation, says: “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” which is very true. In summary, use social media to show how much you care about your customers and the results will improve your brand and customer loyalty. Too many companies e-mail when they should call or call when they should meet. If somebody has an issue - engage with them. We all make mistakes but it is how we respond to these mistakes that defines how we are judged. My friend, by the way, was Russ Sawdon (@RussSawdon), Executive Director BNI Durham and Teesside. He genuinely cares about businesses succeeding. If you would like help managing your social media or digital reputation, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01325 311 909.