This is admittedly a bit silly -- okay, very silly -- but it demonstrates social media’s value as a customer service channel, and it also involves potty humor, so darn it, I’m writing about it.
This week Virgin Trains (yet another division of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire in the UK) won online acclaim for its nimble response to a passenger, Adam Greenwood, who tweeted his distress after relieving himself in the train “bog” only to find that the toilet paper had run out. Greenwood, a 16-year-old video blogger and generally prolific social media user, tweeted “I've just had a reasonably large poo and there is no toilet roll left,” giving the train time and destination, with the added plea: “pls send help.”
Remarkably, and to Virgin Trains’ great credit, they did. The Virgin Trains Twitter account responded two minutes later, asking Greenwood which coach he was in, and Greenwood immediately tweeted back that information. Help was on the way, and fifteen minutes later Greenwood tweeted a picture of the now-full toilet paper dispenser.
Greenwood told BuzzFeed: “I tweeted back with the carriage number and I shortly after I saw a guy looking quite worried in a full black suit carrying a toilet roll, after the awkward exchange and smiles I grabbed it off him and finished what I started!”
Ain’t technology grand? Seriously, for all the stunts people have pulled with social media for customer service -- e.g., someone getting a hot steak delivered to them in the airport, this is the kind of thing that actually uses social media’s capabilities to deliver something people really need -- and I mean really, really need.
Of course, a lot of things had to go right for this triumph of the human spirit to happen. Some from Virgin Trains’ social media team had to be watching the company’s Twitter account like a hawk, then had to be able to contact an employee on the train swiftly, indeed all in a matter of minutes. While that might not seem like a big accomplishment, I wouldn’t necessarily expect the company’s social media team to have access to its train-side mobile communications network, which I imagine is usually reserved for important communications about schedules and signals and switches and stuff. Either that or they were able to directly contact the train conductor or another employee via their mobile device, which is also pretty impressive, given the time constraints.