Twitter Can Save Your Business or How Virgin Media uses Modern Customer Service Tools (off-topic)

This is not strictly within the realms of topics I normally cover in this blog but it certainly deserves wider notice.

We run a game development, publishing and distribution business and, just before Christmas, moved offices. Our ISP is Virgin Media, part of the Branson empire that bought erstwhile ISP NTL a while ago. Virgin was quite forthcoming to accommodate our move and were, I'd say, happy that we would stay with them. They needed - or so they said - 6 weeks to make the full switch but told us to accommodate us with a DSL line in the interim. Whilst this is stretching for the HQ of a digital company, it was only for a short time so, hey, roll with the punches...

Then we were told that all would actually take "a little" longer. A little became end of May 2009; this would have been nearly 6 months from our office move. Impossible! Software engineers, deployment teams, sales force, marketing, project management all over a DSL line? Our worst nightmare!

That Friday night, after I had heard this - fairly solemnly delivered - verdict of the Virgin customer service, I vented my frustration on Twitter, namely by addressing a tweet to Sir Richard Branson, entrepreneur extraordinaire, customer service evangelist and face of Virgin. Sir Richard was at the time, I believe, on an around-the-world trip with his various Virgin airlines...

Then the power of Twitter, ordinarily available only to the digital and real-life celebrities with North of 25,000 followers, also showed its might to me: inside 12 hours, I had direct messages via Twitter from the MD of Virgin Media and their Sales Director for the business division of which Manchester is part. By Sunday I had their mobile numbers and arranged for a call with the MD on Monday morning. By Tuesday, we had a tentative date (20 March), which was then bettered to 17 March. And as of 1pm of that day, our business was, well, back in business (the engineer delivering the router et al was actually a full half hour early). Within 15 minutes our IT manager, sys admin and my good self were peppered with careful inquiries from various sources within Virgin asking if all was in order. Wow!

Besides this being a nice war story, it does show what Twitter can be used for: Virgin Media will have identified a need to address the - anecdotally very poor - customer service levels of the NTL business they acquired. Now, one could of course (and rightfully) claim that I should not have needed to go to one of Britain's most successful entrepreneurs to get a response from somewhere in the bowels of this organization. On the other hand did they manage to demonstrate in exemplary fashion the passion and dedication they have: I mean, an MD of a large ISP twittering you on a weekend? Impressive.

Whilst this does not solve the root of any general customer service issues Virgin Media may (or may not) have, it does allow their management to manage change from the top, and it does - whilst not replicable (at least not through MD treatment) - allow them to accelerate sensitivity and awareness for such issues within the organization whilst displaying (and in a convincing fashion) their will to improve (and don't we all happily fall for a show of good will and effort!).

The only question that remains is whether Sir Richard has a Twitter Manager or if he actually forwarded my tweet to his lieutenants himself... I do thoroughly thank everyone involved there; a great example of how it can work, a great showcase on what Twitter can do to help your business, faith restored!