This is how geeky I’ve become in my old age.  Star Trek (yes, the movie) made me think of a great brand engagement solution – well, maybe not specifically Star Trek, but the DVD I purchased this week, TWICE.

Let me explain…uhura

Last night, I found myself standing in line at the customer service counter at a local “Big Box” store – for the second time in as many days. It seems as though a shipment of the new Star Trek DVDs had been damaged; and about 200 upset geeks, including me, found themselves watching Spock, Kirk and Uhura jump from present day to past, to the movie climax, to witty sexual innuendo, to exciting battle scene… about every six minutes.

While it made for an entertaining montage of the flick, after about 30 minutes, I’d had enough (my wife and kids were sick of it after about 10).  So, at 7:30pm on a Wednesday night, I stood in line.  Waiting.  Frustrated with every progressing minute that I wasn’t able to get my geeky fanboy Uhura fix… (mmmmmmmm Uhura).

Then, the social media marketer in me came to the surface (I’ll have to talk to my psychiatrist about this).  I looked around, and in the crowd of nerds, geeks, dweebs and extra terrestrials of all sorts, I saw one dominant feature (besides loose, black, funky sweat pants).

Mobile phones… PDAs, iPhones, Droids… you name it, they were EVERYWHERE!

All I could hear was the clickity-click of sweaty thumbs texting away on mobile devices from the doorway to the service counter. I even had my CrackBerry out so I could update my wife with how long the line was.

I could just imagine what all of the others were texting…

“Honey, the line at Big Box in insane…  get the kids ready for bed… #sorry 🙁 “

“I can’t believe how long the line is at Big Box! WTF! #Fail

“Just spent the last half hour waiting for Big Box to replace my #StarTrek DVD! F.”

“Did I leave the popcorn going in the microwave? #nasty

“Beverly said my sweatpants need to be washed…#luckytobedating

Poor Beverly.  Now she’ll have to deal with Morgan’s fermented redolence for another night because he’s standing in line…

Then, I looked up to the service counter.  The poor girl behind the register (yes, only one) was darting back and forth from the phone to the counter faster than a hamster on crack and RedBull. She had six DVDs in one hand, a phone tucked precariously on her shoulder, and was trying to talk one poor nerd girl down from the ledge – convincing her that “Big Box” was going to replace her DVD, she just needed to show a receipt… (I could hear the nerd girl’s cerebral cortex shatter like a Faberge egg.)

Oh man, I felt for the customer service girl, though.  I’d been in similar situations.  But when I worked in customer service (20+ years ago), there wasn’t social media.  There wasn’t an army of social media militants standing at the counter organizing their chaos through bluetooth devices.  There was just me, irate customers, a cash register and a phone…  How archaic was that?!?

Then I looked again.  SHE was in the same situation I’d been in 20 years ago! (remind me to check my own cerebral cortex.)


So, what if…  just go with me on this one… “Big Box” realized the situation and circumvented the ire of the “World Of Warcraft” generation and addressed the issue using…  wait for it…


It would be a simple implementation.  If “Big Box” had someone monitoring their brand, they would see the conversations going on (I wrote a post about it a few weeks ago).  With that knowledge, they could,

1) address the issue directly to the people making the complaints, or

2) create a hashtag “#” to focus the conversation and keep everyone engaged with solutions as they are developed.


I see it done like this:

“Big Box’s” social media monitor (yeah) tracks a series of red flag statements rolling through the Twittersphere, specific to a certain store.  With speed and efficiency (good luck with that one), they send the message down to store management and then on to the service center to post solutions, instructions and apologies for any inconvenience to their store’s Twitter account under a specific hashtag, like “#BBSouthStarTrekDVD”

At the same time, somewhere around service counter a sign could be posted stating the issue and that “Big Box” was doing what they could within the store to accomodate the customers and solve the issues.  But (and this is the cool part), if they had questions, comments, etc., they could join the conversation with the store and other customers by just using Twitter and #BBSouthStarTrekDVD !

Simple?  I think so.  I think MANY of my co-nerds would have been satiated by just this small gesture.

By the time I got to the counter, in my mind, I’d been promoted from customer service dweeb to “Big Box” CEO and was looking to shop for my next home in the Hamptons; so I didn’t get the chance to offer this advice to the girl behind the counter.  But I think she was a little too busy anyway.

What could your company do to utilize hashtags on Twitter? Could customer service issues be solved with a simple tweet-or-two?  Or do you think it’s still about what Morgan had for breakfast this morning (that quickly found its way onto his sweatpants)?

What other departments could benefit from tracking conversations about your brand?

Food for thought.

Keep Cooking,
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef


  1. Your idea around using a hashtag to sort out customer service issues is definitely brilliant, but at this point I see the adoption rate of such a tactic to be VERY low.

    In most cases of customer dissatisfaction on Twitter, the hashtag emerges from the crowd, and catches steam as a result of people promoting it. Typically the company is not the one to kick things off, unless it is an organized company event or a giveaway contest.

    Also, this whole scenario hinges on the fact that a business could catch and pinpoint the woes of a small crowd at 7:30pm. Most businesses are still only operating 8-5 on Twitter, but I COULD see that changing over time. The other key to this plan is the integration between the web and the physical store. Unfortunately for us, that sync between site and store just isn’t there yet.

    I think that businesses and organizations could do more with the data they collect via listening, including leveraging Twitter in new ways, but it will still take time to get to that level. All we can do is to keep suggesting it to them until they listen. 😉

    • Hey Mike!

      GREAT COMMENT! Very well thought out and you have very good points. I see a lot of the issues with the “Social Media for Customer Service” solution being a pretty far-fetched idea for precisely the reasons you point out.

      Logically, the “corporate” level needs to see the advantage to monitoring their brands with social media. After that is absorbed and metrics have been established, they can then be educated on the proper use of SM to engage – both from a brand marketing standpoint (which some have started in a “Push” model) and a PR standpoint where the situation like I described above would enter.

      It’s going to take time. It’s going to take professionals like you and me. It’s going to happen faster than some companies can deal with. But eventually, the WILL have to deal with it.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. It’s good to have you at the table. 🙂

      Keep Cooking!
      Andrew B. Clark
      The Brand Chef