Adventures with Chain Restaurants & Social Media (Part Duex)

I know I promised the next post would be about a Foursquare Scavenger Hunt, but this experience with Chipotle and Social Media took precedence.  I urge you to read the entire blog post; Chipotle was slow out of the gate but they did address my issue eventually and satisfactorily.  I am still a fan.  They, like Chili’s in the last post, now need to get serious about how they interact with their customers on the wide variety of social media platforms we’re all using to express our opinions about brands every day.

This past weekend, my daughter and I decided to try the new Chipotle that opened near us in Sea Girt.  Happy to have a location much closer than the franchise in Eatontown, and being pressed for time as usual, we headed down Route 35 looking forward to a generous takeout food experience.  Sadly, this didn’t happen.

Back when the Eatontown Chipotle opened, I didn’t make it to their pre-opening giveaway because I was too busy and live 20 minutes away.  Many of my students (starving and poor) took advantage, however, and raved at the massive amounts of food they received for free.  I thought this was a marketing ploy – after all, I was teaching Free by Chris Anderson to my ecommerce students at the time – and cautioned them not to expect this to continue.

Chipotle proved me wrong.  Not only did their generosity continue, but their vegetarian burrito option without cheese or sour cream is vegan!  As @StephanDavis02 tweeted, “[Chipotles] is a vegan safehaven in foreign cities.”  I’d say at home too!  When my daughter started working at the Eatontown mall, Chipotles was one of her go to quick, cheap, nutritious restaurants.  Made this Mom very happy when she passed on the fast food options at the food court!

So back to Sea Girt.  We arrived around 4:30, not a peak time, but there were a few customers there.  We placed our order for two burrito bowls and began discussing our plans for the coming week especially when our schedules were both open to visit the Apple store for her college computer.  We replied to the servers’ questions regarding toppings, and I did ask for more peppers and onions when (I swear this is true) I got 1 onion and 2 peppers the first time.  I figured the server got the message so continued talking to my daughter, paid for our food, and left.

What a surprise when we got home.  I do wish I took a picture, but we were hungry.  Sarah’s bowl was 2/3rds full.  She asked, “What did they leave all this empty space for?”  My bowl was no better, mostly rice, a few beans, some tomatoes and corn salsa.  We’d both had these bowls in Eatontown so our expectations were high.  My daughter didn’t say it, but I knew what she was thinking: When we’re done, you’re going to tweet about this, aren’t you?

Of course!  I haven’t followed @EatontownBB for over a year without learning something from his customer service approach!  I tweeted about the miserly portions we received including @chipotle in the tweet.  A few tweets later, I discovered that this is not the restaurant’s Twitter account; very unfortunate.  A few students who eat in Eatontown regularly asked what was up and @rob_sports pointed out that their new Twitter name was @ChipotleTweets.

This information wasn’t on the website.  Neither was a link to their Facebook page.  Once I sent the tweet regarding our disappointment and the lack of social media information on the website to the right account, I got this response:

@lgesin It’s not on our website YET. I just submitted the request on Friday, this account is only 3 weeks old for us. -Colin

Wow.  Only on Twitter for 3 weeks?  That really surprised me, but I give them credit, they’re on Twitter now.  I resorted to sending an email Sunday night describing our experience and assumed I’d hear something during the day on Monday.  I realize their customer service staff probably works Monday through Friday, but I also assumed they’d schedule their people accordingly.  If you aren’t available to answer customer emails all weekend, shouldn’t you schedule more people on Monday to deal with the high volume?

I received this on Tuesday early afternoon when I tweeted about the slow response time:

@lgesin Just shot the Customer Service team a note. They get a little back logged on weekends and will pull your comment. -Colin

After that, a few more of my followers chimed in wanting to know what was going on and commenting on Chipotle’s less than stellar use of Social Media.  @yuricon tweeted, “A company has to be where their customers are.”  I would add, they need to respond to their customers, not make the customer keep reaching out to them.

Here’s where Chipotle did the right thing.  Shannon from Customer Service emailed me not long after Colin’s tweet above.  Unfortunately, she got the location wrong:

“Thanks for writing to us. I’m so sorry for the skimpy portions you received at our Eatontown location.”

As I typed an email correcting her assumption – after all, we still LOVE the Eatontown store – Mike from Morristown called me on my cell phone.  He too was very apologetic, and I appreciated the personal phone call.  Now that’s good customer service!  However, if Colin had responded through Twitter on Sunday night in the same person to person manner, all of this could’ve been avoided.  That’s what Twitter and Social Media are all about for brands like Chipotle, direct conversations with their customers.  It promotes brand loyalty as well as prevents small incidents like mine from getting blown all out of proportion.  After all, I had almost 48 hours to simmer while waiting for some sort of response.

Customers who use social media expect an almost immediate response.  It’s good for the company and for the customer.  Shannon did offer to mail me a coupon for a free burrito bowl which I appreciate.  I think Chipotle is on the right path, and I look forward to visiting their Sea Girt location again and sending positive tweets about the experience!

One final note, I did express interest in what @ChipotleTweets intended to do with Foursquare.  Colin responded:

@lgesin We’ve definitely checked out foursquare, had a few conversation with Tristan. Their office eats Chipotle all the time. 🙂 -Colin

I’m glad you’ve spoken to their Director of Business Development.  Have you spoken with the users of Foursquare?  Some of them eat Chipotle all the time too.


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