Although now a distant memory the cold snow of the UK winter was not that long ago, as a deep frosty morning in May reminded me. It was during one of our ‘deep snow’ periods that I noticed how effective the new social networks were for businesses in communicating with customers, particularly during unexpected situations.

As first glance I wondered why, as a user of a frozen meals delivery service, I would want to join their Facebook or Twitter feeds, why would I want to be their friends in a social network (was this not just another marketing ploy?)
It was only when the deliveries of their vital weekly supply to my housebound relative were at risk due to the snow that the value of this ‘network’ became apparent. As you might expect their phone lines were very busy and their email responses (automated) were rather general in nature. We needed to know when our next delivery would be and their broadcast messages on IVR and email were not detailed enough, their web site was also too static to be able to respond to this short term problem.
However their messages did suggest I visit their social network blogs where up to date information was being relayed, each delivery for each area was being given when known, and updated in real time. Quickly we were able to reassure ourselves that a delivery would arrive in our area as scheduled.
This was something of a revelation and quite reassuring as the company specialises in providing a service to people cannot make it to the shops, or have difficulties cooking for their specific dietary needs. Their web site is clear and helpful, easy to use and their printed catalogue is well laid out. Ordering can be done on line, by phone or via their always friendly drivers.
This end to end customer experience, no matter which channel used, has been carefully designed around the customer (it does not happen by chance). In this case they have catered a variety of customers who are web users (many silver surfers), those happy to work with the phone, or many who still like to sit with their driver whilst he/she helps them ‘decide’ what to order.
When this approach works, it is a delight, and the new network tools like Facebook or twitter play their part, not just in addressing, but in closing that customer experience gap, when the unexpected occurs.