Haje is curious to a fault, and what is loosely referred to as his 'career' reflects that. He has crashed fewer motorbikes than you'd think, and once set his face on fire whilst juggling. He loves dark beers, like porter. Oh, and he tweets a lot, at @Haje.

He freely admits that some of these things are more worth being proud of than others.

Getting social support horribly wrong


I’ve written about Virgin Media’s completely misunderstood approach to social media support once before, as an example in how empowering your customer support representatives is so important. Of course, being the ever-so-optimistic person, I figured that perhaps they are an organisation that is still finding their feet from a social support point of view.

So, yesterday, when I spotted that somebody had vandalised the Virgin Media box up my street, I decided to get back in touch with them. When I did so, I made a couple of assumptions:

  • They would want to know where the box was
  • They would want to know a reference number or similar
  • They would want to see proof of this vandalism

Luckily, Twitter is a great tool for that; my tweets are geo-tagged, and so I tweeted them a picture of the box. I also decided to add the reference number of the box in the tweet itself.

Now, let’s pause here for a second, and think about the following: if you worked for a large a large utility company, and you received a tweet stating that some hardware you operated had been vandalised, what would you do?

What happened

I... Don't think you're meant to be able to see these bits.

I… Don’t think you’re meant to be able to see these bits.

So, the correct answer to the above question would be:

  1. Report the picture, location, and reference number to an engineer
  2. Thank the person who reported it, and let them know what the engineer said. Preferably something like “We’ll send someone out to take a look at it ASAP”)

Instead, I got a message advising me to fill in their social media response form. That’s lovely and all, but all the information they needed to completely resolve this inquiry was right there in the tweet. If Virgin Media need more information from me to prevent further vandalism to their own property, well that’s their problem, really.

I couldn’t help myself, and decided to voice my frustration. Not particularly polite, perhaps, but there you go. And, before you ask, no, they didn’t take the opportunity to redeem themselves.

An exercise in mild futility

An exercise in mild futility

What went wrong?

Well, it’s pretty obvious, really.

Either, it’s an individual failing. In that case: Whoever responded to the initial tweet didn’t decide to take the initiative to look into the issue in greater depth, and take the logical steps to resolve the issue (send out an engineer…)

Alternatively, it could be an institutional issue: that Virgin Media have their social media team on the case primarily to placate the social media masses, that another team is actually dealing with support, and that never the twain shall meet.

It’s a sad day, when even what ought to be the simplest, most basic customer interaction turns into an exercise in mild frustration.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how not to do social customer service.


If the full and complete answer to a customer support enquiry fits in 140 characters, don’t make your customers e-mail you or fill in a form. That’s just daft.

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