Is Your Customer Service Social Media Ready?

Social media is changing the way companies handle their customer service – or at least it should be.

Severe thunder storms during the 4th of July holiday left over 340,000 DTE Energy customers without power. While many customers took to their phones to report nearby outages and damages, a large number of customers made their voices heard through the social web; posting pictures of the damage and reporting outages to DTE Energy directly on Twitter.



And how did DTE Energy handle it? Not so well… Surely they had their hands full, but failing to respond to customers on social media is a public misstep. Others will see this and assume the worst of the company when DTE’s customers are publicly complaining and asking for help, only to be ignored.



It’s not only important to respond to customer inquiries in a timely manner, but to relay the correct message as well. Obviously, smaller businesses have it easier than DTE Energy in this realm by having a significantly smaller customer base to satisfy on social networks. However, poor customer service on social networks can be even more devastating to a small business’s reputation for the same reason.

This infographic from Bluewolf (pictured below) outlines the growing importance of providing customer service through social media channels.

Ford Motor Company, based out of Dearborn, MI, has embraced social media better than most companies. They are known for their proactive online customer support and the FordSocial blog, which allows customers to interact and share their experiences.

Ford has established a good reputation for customer service online by setting a goal to respond to all tweets from customers within four hours. They also go above and beyond by visiting forums that include discussions of their brand and responding to users who did not directly address them. Acts like these exceed customer expectations and ensure satisfaction.



This article from Social Media Examiner emphasizes the importance of speed and personalization when addressing customers on Twitter. By responding quickly, getting personal, using DMs and joining conversations your company can reach consumers on a more personal level. The idea is to make the conversation feel as if it were happening face-to-face.



In this new digital landscape when things begin to go awry, it’s crucial to address your customers’ issues effectively. Practice timeliness, transparency, respect, and gain a solid understanding of the community you are engaging with. Following these simple steps will help take your business’s online customer service to the next level and result in happy customers.


social media and customer service inforgraphic by bluewolf



  1. Donna Schultz

    My tweet is included above. Just an update…we still have a huge low voltage problem and still no resolution from DTE. Each day they tell us that someone will be out that day or “at the latest…”, they tack on a couple more days. I received a response to my tweet, to email them my problem issues. I did just that and received an email back saying someone would contact me shortly. It is now over 24 hours and I have received no call. If we paid our energy bill in the same timely manner that they resolve customer issues, well…they would disconnect us. If they weren’t a monopoly I would drop them like a hot potato. However, they have us by the short hairs and they know it, and frankly, they just don’t care. Thanks for addressing this issue, although with some companies, it obviously doesn’t matter.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the update, Donna. We’re sorry to hear that… It’s unfortunate that big companies like DTE can treat customers this way and suffer minimal consequences. There are undoubtedly many more customers like you who would love to drop them for another company, but simply cannot. Keep your chin up though and be persistent. When it’s all over, it may be worth it to mail a strongly worded letter asking for reimbursement for the services you did not receive. Good luck with everything, and please come back and let us know how it all unfolds! – Scott

      • Donna Schultz

        Our issue has been resolved. Oh, the power of Twitter! After I posted that you used my Tweet in your article, we received a call from the upper management of DTE, and a DTE employee came out that evening. He received a call from his supervisor telling him to drop whatever he was doing and get over to our house. There was a problem right outside at the pole, and it took no longer than about 15 minutes to fix. It’s too bad it took so long to address our problem. Thanks for using my tweet in your article. DTE apparently does not want the negative publicity and hopped to it when they saw all of this transpire.

        • Oh, the power of Twitter! 🙂 We’re glad to hear your service issue has been taken care of. Hopefully DTE’s customer service department will be more attentive to these types of issues in future.
          Thanks again for stopping by and filling us in, Donna! – Scott

  2. As a former DTE Energy employee, I take issue with the way you’ve characterized the company’s response to the 4th of July storms. You posted 2 messages from customers, but you apparently did not review the @DTE_Energy Twitter account or the DTE Energy Facebook page. DTE staff worked many, many hours responded to customers impacted by the storm. If you reviewed those pages you would find hundreds of responses from the company, as well as dozens of instances where customers thanked the company’s representatives for being responsive in social media. DTE Energy has actually been recognized by the utility industry for having a strong social media presence and integrating customer service into the process. You presented a very narrow, one-sided perspective of the issue.

    • We understand your concern and apologize if you took offense – that was truly not our intention. The intent of the article was to highlight a few examples of “do’s and don’ts” for brands and businesses to keep in mind when handling customer service on social networks. The primary network we focused on was Twitter, not Facebook and in the article we stated that DTE Energy obviously had their hands full with the power outages because they have such a large customer base to serve – certainly a daunting task. We did not state that their customers were all served poorly and our examples were specific to communication during and after power outages related to the storm. We chose a few examples of exceptional and less than exceptional customer service in order to demonstrate these “do’s and don’ts.” Donna above directly benefited from actions taken by DTE Energy as a result of this article. – Scott

      • This line “Surely they had their hands full, but failing to respond to customers on social media is a public misstep” is not supported by the facts you presented. You pulled a couple of comments that may not have been publicly replied to, but did not investigate the many that were. That, to me, is unbalanced and should be corrected.

        • Social networks are public domain, therefore when a company fails to respond to a customer it is a public misstep. We acknowledge that brands and businesses with extremely large customer bases will undoubtedly receive more public complaints. When the widespread power outage occurred, there were countless complaints to DTE Energy – some of those complaints did not receive a response. As we said before, we were merely trying to demonstrate the basic “do’s and don’ts” for brands and businesses to keep in mind. – Scott

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *