The real-time nature of Twitter can offer a great opportunity to surprise and delight your customers. There’s an example here of exactly that – in brief, Mike tweets about a catastrophe with his parents’ oven; the manufacturers, GE, pick it up, contact the parents, and resolve the issue. A happy outcome for the customer AND the manufacturer, as Mike tells the world how impressed he is.

As the use and reach of social media continues to increase, more and more of us are coming to expect that kind of direct channel to customer service. It’s the exact opposite of calling your utility company – finding yourself wandering in a maze of unfriendly automated menus before being put on hold until five minutes before the End of Days.

This kind of great service doesn’t just happen by chance though. A couple of things had to be in place in order for GE to achieve that great PR. Firstly, they needed to be monitoring what was being said about them on the social media platforms. That part is probably easier for a large, resource rich business which can afford to have people dedicated to doing that, probably with access to sophisticated monitoring software.

Secondly, but just as crucially, the organisation itself had to have processes in place to make things happen. Jack in Communications has picked up the issue. It needs to find its way through the various layers of management to provide Sarah in Repairs with authorisation to get a replacement out. For most big companies, that’s about as likely as the Daily Mail running a “more holidays for asylum seekers” campaign.

This is where smaller companies have a real advantage – once you’re aware of the problem, it’s easy for you to delight the customer with outstanding service.

First though, you have to be aware of what’s being said about you out there. Do you have arrangements in place to make sure that somebody is listening out for your company?