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When social media customer service goes wrong… OR why Hilton Hotels are cr*p for conferences

Social media is a brilliant tool for customer service – companies really listen and react to disgruntled customers and use it to alleviate issues and strengthen relationships. Right? Erm, well, not always.

Take Hilton Hotels, for example. They provided some extremely rude and shoddy customer service at the conference we ran recently at their showpiece Arc de Triumph venue recently. Without going into too much detail, they refused to provide an overall wi-fi service for the conference, despite confirming specifically at the time of booking that they could. Instead, they insisted that guests would have to purchase wi-fi individually, on top of their conference fee - essentially fleecing our customers for extra revenue. They were totally unapologetic about it. From my perspective, this isn’t really acceptable, and makes us look bad as the organiser. In short, it’s very embarrassing.

Because I was annoyed, I tweeted about this during the conference. Straight away, I got a response from Hilton asking me to follow them, so they could DM me. I did so immediately. Then they responded asking for my contact details, which I also provided without hesitation. So far so good. A quick and succinct response. This would have been great – significantly, it would have turned a pretty bad situation into a quite good one. I told everyone at the conference that they had responded, and that this was evidence that social media actually worked! I felt proud that I had demonstrated the relevance of Twitter, which remains a much-maligned platform, and would get some kind of apology for the poor service that we’d all received.

But then what happened? Well, nothing. Sweet FA. Nada. No DM, no follow up. They have just dropped the query and decided to ignore me. I think the Hilton social media team is sticking its fingers in its ears and singing ‘la-la-la – can’t hear you so you’re not really there’… or something like that.

As I’m sure you can imagine, whilst previously I was annoyed, now I was furious! It has exacerbated an existing bad situation. In fact in fact, I’m so annoyed that I’m going to write a blog about it. So congratulations Hilton: you’ve turned a bad situation into a worse one, and a potential advocate into a really very disgruntled former (and unlikely ever to be again) customer. They couldn’t have screwed up more if they’d really tried.

Okay, so my little temper tantrum with Hilton isn’t exactly Dell Hell, or American Breaks Guitars, but I am quite p*ssed off.

But I’m also curious. If Hilton aren’t going to bother to follow up on complaints, or negative feedback received via Twitter, why bother to use this social media channel at all? Did they think that I was simply going to go away and forget about it if they stayed quiet? If someone has gone to all the trouble of tweeting about something, and following up, I think it’s unlikely that they will just disappear. It seems to me like a very naïve and short-sighted approach which is ultimately very counter productive.

So the moral of the story is, if you’re going to respond via Twitter, you have to take it’s through to its ultimately conclusion, or you’ll just made the situation worse. You might think, this is obvious, but it clearly wasn’t to Hilton.

So that’s all for me, apart from to say that I think Hilton conference venues are cr*p, their staff are rude and arrogant and generally not very nice people to do business with. I will tell everyone I know as vociferously and enthusiastically as possible in any relevant situation. And they’ve only got themselves to blame, so there.