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Corporate Twitter: a simple, sad lesson from Europcar

This is a story about how I tried to spend £100 with a car hire company and failed, thanks to an unhelpful customer service department, compounded by spectacularly poor use of the official company Twitter account.

It started well enough with an online booking, followed by a phone call from the branch to confirm the exact car I needed.

The wheels fell off when I tried to pick the car up. Despite being assured by the man on the phone that I didn’t need to take along the company credit card to pick up the car, when I arrived without it, I was stonewalled.

Nope. Sorry. No can do.

Did I have recourse?

“You can call customer services”

And so started my customer service odyssey, an epic that involved being referred between departments, then back to a self-service website that denied any knowledge of me.

What did I want? To reschedule a booking, pay for it with a company credit card and then pick up the car using a different card for the deposit.

The short answer from Europcar: “Computer says no”

And then I noticed the Twitter link on the Europcar homepage, offering me “Daily Driving Inspiration”

So in desperation I messaged them:

@carhiregetaways experiencing terrible customer service with Europcar – what do you recommend I do to get help?

The response? Silence. Until 11pm that night, when I received this direct message:

Thanks for following us… Get 10% off your next UK car hire at http://www.europcar.co.uk with our exclusive Twitter offer! http://bit.ly/GeHOn

To make it worse, they hadn’t even followed me back, so I was unable to DM them back. Did anyone read my message? Did I sound like I was in the mood to make another booking with Europcar? Is there anyone actually there?

If you thought there was nothing worse than callcentre staff who refuse to veer off script to help a customer, may I suggest this: a company using a bot to broadcast Tweets into cyberspace in the belief that it amounts to engaging with customers.

I’m a customer, I have a unique problem, I have apparently fallen through the cracks of your carefully-written customer service scripts. What I want is a real person (with some initiative) to address my problem. What I got was an automated message that was irrelevant at best, infuriating at worst.

So Europcar, if you’re reading this, perhaps I could give you a few simple tips to improve your Twitter presence (you could easily apply them to any of your social media channels), the rewards will be great, I promise:

  • If someone follows you, follow them back
  • Welcome messages are fine, so long as they are appropriate to the situation.
  • Social Media is about conversation, not broadcasting. If a customer reaches out to you with a problem, make sure you respond. It’s probably going to be the difference between retaining a customer and creating an advocate for your competitors.
  • Customers who do engage with you via Twitter are more than likely to be higher income, highly engaged,and willing to book online – ie your dream customer. Treat them well and they will sing your praises to all of their high income, highly-engaged friends. Treat them badly and the damage will stretch much further than just one lost sale.
  • Do a quick inventory of your followers – How many look like your target market? Of your 115 followers, the majority are other car hire companies and travel guides. Now ask yourself: Why are my customers not listening to me? Should I change my messaging, my engagement strategy or both to attract more of the right kinds of followers?
  • If it’s your official Twitter account, make sure it features your corporate logo. The Europcar page links back to the official site and has links from the official site, but the page itself bears no branding at all.
  • And finally (suggestion: do this first) @europcar is unclaimed and available. Go and grab it, before someone less sympathetic takes it first.

So did I finally get to drive that car? Yes I did. With Europecar’s direct competitor.

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One Response

  1. John Carson says:

    Good to know I’m not the only victim of terrible Europcar service.

    http://makejohnnycash.blogspot.com/2010/01/my-very-detailed-post-on-why-europcar.html

    Can’t believe they’re still in business.

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