How to get great customer service part 2: Twitter interaction

Long time readers of this blog know that I am a huge advocate for great customer service. I recently wrote about my experience in handling a faulty electric toothbrush return and how efficient it was to use the company’s online chat feature to do so. Today, I am going to show you how Twitter can be a powerful tool for customer service as well.

First, a little jargon and background is necessary. Even if you are familiar with Twitter, there is a separate feature, called Direct Messaging, that really makes that platform helpful for reaching a human being. Direct Messaging (or DM) is simply a two-way communication between you and the recipient. How is that different from normal Twittering or Tweeting? While you can post messages for the entire world to see, DMs are private. But, as helpfully laid out on Twitter’s Help page:

  • You can only send Direct Messages to users who follow you
  • You can receive Messages from any user that you follow
customer service

Photo Credit: Wikimedia


Thus, the bottom line is essentially that you need to follow the person, company, etc, you are trying to DM and they do the same in return. So, you might ask, how do I get a problem resolved then? Well, what you need to do is make a public tweet that essentially asks “Hey Company X, I am having a problem with your product or service.” Then, depending on how significant or unique the problem is, the company will follow you and either say, “Please send us a DM and we can discuss this issue,” or “please see our frequently asked questions page at for help.” Obviously, we want the DM option if we need specialized assistance.

Twitter Customer Service in action

Here is how Twitter has worked for me in the real world. Recently, I had made two reservations with a major airline. I made them knowing that I could cancel them within 24 hours and receive a full refund (note: this is pretty standard now). I ended up cancelling both a few hours later. No problem, right? Big airline acknowledged in my history that I made two reservations and cancelled them within the time frame allowed so I was entitled to a refund. Great. I will just sit tight and watch the refund transactions process. A few more days pass and when I look at my credit card statement, big airline had fully processed the transactions and now I owed a boat load. Arrgh! But, no problem as I wasn’t worried, just annoyed that I might have to take some action here. To Twitter I went.

Yesterday, I initiated a chat with big airline (I have a relationship with them, so I could DM freely). A few hours pass. They initially respond and request some more information. I go to bed. I wake up and they have part of the issue resolved but need a bit more information. I provide it. A bit later, they indicated that their refunds department is handling the matter. Of course, I will be watching my credit card statement like a hawk, but since this company’s customer service is pretty reputable, I am pretty confident that the problem has been resolved.

Bottom line, even if you never plan on tweeting out #ijustatethatsandwich or other pointless missives, Twitter is a great avenue for customer service help. I hope to see this medium flourish in the future as I think it is an excellent way to conduct business.

The Consumer’s Edge Special Alert: Credit Card Fraud

Sooner or later, we are all likely going to be victims of credit card fraud. Yesterday, it was my turn. Someone used my card in the Midwest, but I don’t live there, and I had my card in my wallet. Fortunately, three things occurred. First, I got an alert from my credit card company on my phone that flagged the purchase. $86 at a grocery store. Nope, not me. Second, I called and they immediately froze the account so no further fraudulent charges would occur. Third, as has been the case for years, liability for fraudulent charges is typically zero.

credit card fraud

Credit: Pixabay

I am mad of course; but since it wasn’t my primary card information that was stolen, I don’t have to memorize a new sequence of credit card digits (trust me, in comes in handy). I am mad because someone “physically” used my card at a grocery store and not online which would make more sense if my information had been stolen. I have one of the new chip and PIN cards (they look like this picture to the left), which is supposed to combat this type of thing. Perplexed, I did a little research on this topic and apparently it’s easy enough for thieves to “clone” your card. The following article from WFLA explains how credit card fraud can occur (probably provides too much info, to be honest) even when you haven’t lost your card. A lesson for us all.

Where does credit card fraud begin?

Now, you might ask, how did they get my card info? This is where the disturbing part comes in. Forget the typical hack job that has occurred all too frequently lately (Target, for example), there are a few different ways this information could have been stolen. One, the thief used a “skimmer,” which is a small device that can be attached to Point of Sale (POS) machines, such as gas pumps and ATMs. They can be very hard to see, though. Unbeknownst to the victim, they think they are using the machine like normal, but when they place their card in it, the skimmer is either taking a picture of the card or capturing the card information as the transaction is processed. Be on the look out for anything odd, especially on standalone ATM machines that are a huge ripoff anyway. Two, when I used my card at a restaurant the thief skimmed the information when I wasn’t looking. Three, they just copied the information down on paper, etc. and stole it that way. In Canada, and I am sure the case in other countries, too, I actually swiped my own card at a restaurant where I ate. That ensured my card was never out of my sight.

In the end, we are all paying for credit card fraud in the form of higher fees and other compromises. The key takeaway is to keep a close watch on all of your statements, use a service like Bill Guard (free), and report anything odd right away. $86 is nothing to sneeze at, but more than likely it was a test to see if the stolen card could be used fraudulently on much larger purchases. Nobody wants that.

Reducing Your Spending Part V: Save Money by Earning Elite Status

In my continuing series on Reducing Your Spending in 2015, today I am going to discuss how to save money by leveraging retail elite status. Typically, when we hear the words “elite status” we might be thinking of hotels and airlines. These tips can apply to those categories as well, but I am going to focus on retail elite or VIP status that you might earn from day-to-day shopping.

Two different ways to save money with elite status

Saving money on everyday items

For research on this topic, I first wanted to recount my recent discussion on how I receive coupons from CVS, almost weekly, for 20-25% off my total bill as a CVS Premier Shopper. I never knew that program even existed until they told me about in one of the mailers they sent. I am curious if Premier shopper to them means I spend a lot there, or I am savvy with coupons. Maybe both. I am not sure if it will work, but CVS actually sent me both a 25% off coupon in the mail and another for 25% via email this week. I am going to try to “stack” those and see what happens. If I am successful, I am going to take VIP to the next level by ironically spending less money than what a high-roller who uses no coupons would.

save money

Credit: Wikimedia

Saving money on less frequently purchased items

In addition to my experience, I also wanted to see what other programs existed for VIP, premier, or otherwise very loyal customers. I came across an article from Consumer Reports that highlighted several of these, but were mostly clothing retailers and electronics stores. I wouldn’t consider these to be “everyday” type purchases. By signing up for co-branded credit or debit cards, these types of VIP programs offer members coupons and other incentives. As with hotel and airline programs with their co-branded credit cards, these perks come with a price. So if your goal is to save money, you will have to balance the cost of a potential annual fee or high interest rate with the anticipated discounts. Super tip here: don’t carry a balance, if you can avoid it. 23% interest will wipe out any coupon savings.

We all want to be treated like VIPs, and if you direct your spending effectively, and not on impulse purchases, you can save money with these programs.