When Kylee Pierce, a stay-at-home mom of two in Meriden, Conn., heard about Wednesday’s Graco stroller recall, she went looking for the model number on her Graco stroller. When she couldn’t find it, she asked the experts – by messaging Graco’s Twitter account.
From finding the serial number to determining whether Mrs. Pierce’s stroller qualified for the recall to offering links where she could order the proper repair kit, Graco’s twitterers helped Pierce from step to step.
“It was fantastic,” she tweeted to the Monitor. “My 1st experience interacting with a company like this. That Kelly,” Graco’s Twitter minder, “was helpful and prompt!”
Strategically, Graco hit all the right notes, says Ana Roca Castro, a mother of four who runs Premier Social Media, a consulting group.
“The whole point of social media is being there at the time of the crisis,” Mrs. Castro says. “Before people even started complaining, they were there.”
Not all companies are so nimble. During a recall of 1 million Maclaren strollers in November, the company’s Twitter feed blasted out times and dates for distribution of stroller-repair kits but didn’t take questions from consumers. Tylenol’s recent struggles with public relations after a recall of various products also highlights a company wrestling with how best to reach customers when something goes wrong.
“In social media, everything is immediate. You can’t just do a press release and that’s the official opinion of the company,” Mrs. Castro says. “If you don’t have someone who is trained or with a clear policy, [the company will] chicken out. They don’t want to show a public face and risk a lawsuit.”
But being ready for tough days means being responsive to customers every day, building a rapport before times of trouble.
That was the case for Kate Marshlord, a mother of two who runs the site ShoppingMama.com. When Mrs. Marshlord recently Tweeted to Graco with a question about car seats and received a rapid – and useful – reply, she made a personal connection with the company.
“To tap in to moms to connect on a personal level, yeah, it’s through the computer but it feels personal when you get a tweet directly from Graco,” she says. “I could go to my friend and say, 'I asked someone at Graco and here’s what they said,' and it feels like you’re getting some one-on-one advice and connecting with the company even though it’s through the computer.”
When she saw the recall mentioned on the Today Show Wednesday morning, Marshlord headed straight for her Twitter account to help spread the word on the recall to her 3,600 followers. For busy moms in particular, tweeting for customer service just makes more sense.
“It’s definitely easier than getting on the phone and calling a 1-800 number,” she says. “It’s easier with kids running around and making noise in the background to hop online and shoot a tweet or an e-mail.”