Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Good Customer Service: A Twitter Odyssey

I'm still thinking about my institution's social media strategy and wanted to share a positive story about another organization that's Doing It Right. I recently signed up for a DC Public Library card. I tweeted about it, including an @ mention for the system's Twitter account @dcpl.

@dcpl quickly retweeted my message and replied:

I thought that was great, a quick acknowledgment of positive feedback and a reminder about what I needed to do next. Plus, an invitation to move from the internet world into the real world to interact more.

I placed a hold with my new temporary card number and went to my local DC branch a few days later to get my official library card. Side note--DCPL gives you a choice of different card designs, which I also loved. I got the one with the frog that says "Hop into Your Library."

All well and good, until today I noticed a problem. When I looked up that hold I placed earlier, the wrong branch was listed as the "Pickup Library." My book was apparently being shipped to a library across town that would take me over an hour to get to!

Normally in this situation I would search out the customer service number/email and contact the library that way. But, instead I thought, "hey, I know they check their Twitter account regularly, maybe that will be faster."

Within minutes, @dcpl added me as a follower and sent me a series of direct messages. The staff member on the other end looked up my library account and figured out that the problem was just a bug in their new online catalog software. S/he alerted their IT department and assured me that my book would be delivered to the correct branch. S/he also suggested that I change my pickup branch since my local library is going to be temporarily closed in a few weeks. (It's moving to a new building! Very exciting!)

All and all, a great service experience. Quick response, helped me solve my problem, and also helped me avoid another problem I didn't even know I had.

To follow up, I asked how DCPL manages their Twitter account, and got the answer "A few dcpl staff run the twitter collectively - from branch managers to library associates to marketing staff."

Lessons I'm Taking From This:
  1. Good customer service online is just like good customer service offline. It means being friendly, responding quickly, and solving problems.
  2. Responding to casual messages makes people much more likely to communicate with you in the future. If @dcpl hadn't responded to my first @ mention, I doubt I would have tried asking for help through Twitter. I would have assumed that they don't check their @ replies, as most institutions (like mine!) do not.
  3. If you make it apparent that you are available, people will send you questions, so you'd better be prepared to answer them. If you don't have time, you probably shouldn't be on Twitter in the first place.
  4. Empower staff to respond to questions and solve problems via Twitter.
  5. Have many people involved to lighten the burden and ensure good coverage. Alternately, one dedicated person with plenty of time or several people with set shifts could work.


  1. Laura, thanks so much for the great post. This is well organized and written. You are officially my hero and I also applaud the DCPL!

  2. I agree with Leslie on all counts! I'm kind of amazed!

  3. I third that on all counts! Exceedingly well-written (and documented with photos and everything), and I am very proud of DCPL. Way to use social media right.

  4. Nice post! I also got an idea from this post. Anyway, thanks for sharing this informative post. Looking forward for your next post.

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