Why brand values, social media and customer experience must work as one to be fully optimised

Whenever I meet someone who inspires me, it’s not long before I ask them what good customer experience means to them. I was talking to Hazel, MD at the Creative Content Company and she was explaining how many businesses are choosing more to use social media as a way to engage with their customers on mass but their customers are using it as a faster way to speak to individuals in the business when they have queries or complaints. I thought this was an interesting misalignment and asked her for an example to explain what she meant.

Hazel told me how a large cinema chain used social media quite well but if they’d have used it appropriately in her case they could have done it so much better.


A few months ago, Hazel went to her local cinema to watch The Love Punch. She ordered a pot of popcorn (sweet and salted) and a Coke Zero with no ice. Hazel doesn’t like ice in her drinks as she has sensitive teeth she told me.

When Hazel went through and found her seat in the cinema she started to drink her coke and noticed it had ice in it. By this time she had taken off her coat and bag, squeezed past several people to get to her seat so didn’t fancy going back past them all to get her coke changed.

Picture3Like a lot of us, Hazel took to Twitter. She sent a tweet, tagging #CineworldHuntingdon and explaining she was really looking forward to watching The Love Punch but she was disappointed they put ice in her drink when she specifically said no ice, adding that the guy that served her was polite and friendly but clearly hadn’t listened.

How Cineworld dealt with it

cineworld tweet 2Within minutes Cineworld Huntingdon came back on Twitter – good news from a brand responsive perspective to minimise reputational damage. They apologised for this and said they would put ice down the guys back that served her as ‘pay back’ for not listening. This was a really quick, friendly response. It gave the twitter account a personality and a lot of people retweeted and replied to the tweet as it was funny, but what about Hazel and her coke with ice? There was still ice in the drink, her teeth would still feel pain after the smile from the Cineworld tweet had worn off.

How a customer-centric Cineworld might have dealt with it

Let’s be honest it could have been so much more effective. From Hazel’s tweet they could see what film she was watching, they knew there were about 50 people in there from the ticket sales and they knew she was on her own from her ticket sale. They could tell the film didn’t start for 15 minutes from their scheduling on their website and from her profile picture on twitter they even knew what she looked like. A member of staff could have walked in to the theatre with a coke without ice and started by saying, “Did someone order a coke without ice?”

If Hazel had already taken to Twitter to query the coke and ice incident you could have imagine what she would have done if they had bought a replacement coke into the cinema for her? Not to mention the 50 other people in the cinema. Perhaps even a selfie would have followed featuring Hazel, the coke and the forgetful Cineworld drinks dispenser.

Hazel expected a coke with no ice, as she requested but she did not get this so her expectations had not been met. Whilst the response on Twitter was friendly and engaging which is great and personable her query was never actually resolved.

As a platform social media is an effective listening tool, but unlike a call centre with a limited number of seats so you can manage down the number of calls answered, the pipe is wide and always on. If you engage you must resolve.

The importance of brand values in customer experience

But most importantly if the Cineworld team had focussed on ensuring their staff were trained in the importance of delivering a branded experience as well as they well versed in how to tweet, the outcome would have been much more focused on ensuring their customer’s entertainment needs (in this case a coke without ice as much as the movie viewing) were fulfilled. Light-hearted banter is easy. Delivering it whilst reaffirming the strengths of the brand much less so. Brand is not an optional extra in customer experience.

The reason brands like Disney remain head and shoulders above all others in the entertainment world experience is because their people are empowered to focus on their purpose before their tasks.

sensitive teethIt’s a challenge. And it’s a cultural thing. Giving the social media team responsibility to resolve, or align messaging to a branded customer charter will take the brand from socially amusing to simply amazing.

Those who choose to respond to social media posts about their brands with jest without tackling the nature of the initial customer engagement have to accept they leave a lingering bad brand taste in the mouth of those whose issues remain unresolved. A lingering bad taste which is not associated with the channel (which often has flippant and frivolous content), but with the brands themselves. In this case an association between Cineworld and the pain of of very sensitive teeth. Not very funny now.

For an example of how to take a query and turn it into positive PR, with full customer resolution click on our Unordinary blog featuring  ‘we buy any car’.

Posted by Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Strategy & Director at Lexden

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Consultancy | Putting your customers at the heart of the decision.
We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers | We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to our monthly ‘Putting Customers First’ newsletter. Or for a discussion on how we may be able to help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 7968 316548. You can also follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter.

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