Why YODEL is getting Twitter so very, very wrong

Why YODEL is getting Twitter so very, very wrong

In a recent article, I wrote about Twitter parody accounts, how companies can avoid getting them, why they get created and how to create them yourself. This time, I’m going to focus on a company I believe is making a really bad job of its Twitter account, and I’ll explain why I feel it’s doing so badly.

Running a company Twitter account where you deal with customer service enquiries isn’t especially difficult. Rather than being an extra burden, it should be treated as the opportunity it presents – a chance to respond to customers in real-time, showing others how good your customer service is, while also reducing the costs of a call centre. It’s much cheaper to have someone responding to customers on Twitter than it is to have someone manning phone lines.

Despite this, some companies still haven’t caught on to the opportunity Twitter presents, and treat it as a PR exercise rather than a chance to engage with customers. When companies run their Twitter so badly, they run the risk of picking up a parody account; a Twitter account set up specifically to mock the official account.

YODEL’s Twitter account has been running since 2012 – just three years. In that time, the courier hasn’t just picked up one parody account, nor two, nor even three; YODEL has managed to accumulate at least 8 parody accounts to date, some with thousands of followers. The list includes:


Each of these accounts was set up by someone who has been so frustrated with YODEL’s service they felt compelled to create a parody Twitter account and tell others about their experience.

How does YODEL deal with so many parody accounts? Does it engage them in a jokey way, recognising their existing yet trying to put right the mistakes they’re pointing out? No, it tried to go all legal and complained to Twitter via a solicitor.

The trouble is, as we explained in a previous article, Twitter isn’t just OK with parody accounts, it likes them. It offers guidance on how you should run them. It wants them to exist. Therefore, the efforts by YODEL to have these parody accounts removed have been unsuccessful, and the parody accounts themselves are gaining in traction.

So just what is it that YODEL is doing so wrong with Twitter?

First and foremost, when you have an issue with the service of a company (and every company, no matter how good they are, sometimes does things wrong) you expect to receive a prompt and courteous response, and for your issue to be resolved. Answering a tweet you have received from an unhappy customer should take no more than 30 seconds. You should acknowledge the customer’s issue, and ensure them you’ll look into it – giving them a timeframe for your resolution. It’s then vital that you respond to the customer within that timeframe. The customer service buzz-phrase here is ‘under-promise and over-deliver’.

It’s better to tell the customer you’ll get back to them within four hours, and actually respond to them within three hours, than to tell them you’ll get back to them within an hour and actually take two hours.

YODEL does none of this. Tweets to YODEL about missing parcels, delayed parcels, lost parcels, failed collections or incorrect parcel updates can go unanswered for hours, and often result in the customer having to Tweet again. What is worse, and something that many customers on Twitter (and certainly the parody accounts) have picked up on, is the apparent use of automated tweets. Whether or not YODEL does use automated tweets isn’t clear, but what is clear is that responses it sends to customers are from templates and often don’t relate to the customer’s question at all. This action serves to annoy the customer further, rather than appease their concerns.

A simple search on Twitter for phrases used by YODEL produces many similar tweets. Either the Twitter staff members have an identical writing style that defies the odds of probability, or the tweets are from templated stock responses.


This type of templated response, once highlighted and exposed, makes the customer feel as though they really don’t matter at all.

This issue is further compounded by requests from YODEL for the customer to DM (direct message) a tracking number. DMs can only be sent if YODEL is following the customer and, very often, they don’t follow the customer, so the customer cannot send a DM. This means the customer then has to tweet again and ask YODEL to follow them – if, of course, they are aware that this is the reason they can’t send a DM. Many customers are not aware, and the exchange of tweets is dragged out even longer.

So why does YODEL do this? Why would they deliberately ask people to send them a DM without following them? The parody account YODELhell believes it is because YODEL’s Twitter team isn’t actually doing anything to chase up parcels, and the whole exercise is just to delay customers in the hope their parcels will arrive and they’ll stop chasing for them. The parody account has actually made a YODEL Twitter Process Flow, showing how it believes the company uses Twitter.

Process Flow of YODEL on Twitter

This process flow is shared with Twitter users who reply to YODEL stating they’re unable to send a DM because they’re not being followed, yet YODEL does keep doing the same thing.

I’m not the only social media expert to have noticed the deficiencies in YODEL’s Twitter usage. Ruby Lowe, from Social Media London, ran a comparison of the Twitter accounts for YODEL and their closest competitor Hermes, dubbed ‘Social SmackDown: MyHermes vs YODEL‘.

Ruby looked at what the two accounts were tweeting, how fast they were at responding to customers and whether or not they actually answered the question she posed. The results from Ruby’s experiment were not surprising:

“Welcome to the third (and my favourite!) round. In round three, I tweet to both brands asking a question – and then I sit back and wait for responses from both of them.

Yodel got in there first, but their response didn’t answer my question, and asked me to send them my tracking number – which had no relevancy to my question at all. It seems that the response was either automated or else the customer service team member just didn’t read my query properly.”

Ruby goes on to say how Hermes responded a little later than YODEL, but actually answered her question. Is this another indicator that YODEL’s Twitter account could be automated? Ruby seems to think so.

Bad, to worse

Things got really bad for YODEL this December when Twitter user @benr_1985 recorded and uploaded a video of parcels being thrown into a YODEL branded lorry. The video has received several thousand retweets, and has featured on the websites of the Daily Mirror and the Independent, and it prompted a public response from YODEL.

With YODEL stating on its Twitter:

No items were damaged but we appreciate your concern. Our own workforce is trained to never throw a parcel

It seems somewhat hollow when, just last month, YODEL appeared on an episode of Have I Got News for You after a parcel ended up on a customer’s roof.

To date, this tweet has received more than 12,000 retweets, and suggests that if YODEL is training staff on how not to throw parcels, the advice is being forgotten by some drivers once they get on the road. There are, of course, countless other examples online, on Twitter and on YouTube of YODEL drivers throwing parcels. This isn’t a new thing only just highlighted by @benr_1985.

So what can YODEL do to correct all of this?

As much as I have highlighted what I believe to be the inadequacies of YODEL’s Twitter team, I feel the issues start with the company’s procedures. In fact, many of the complaints they receive via Twitter could, more than likely, be eradicated with a few simple procedural changes.

First off, the word ‘porch’ seems to be used by YODEL to refer to the front of a customer’s house – whether or not that customer actually has a porch. This means customers appear to be notified that their parcels are left in their porch, when they don’t even have one. Obviously this causes concern for customers, and leads to tweets such as this:


Has the parcel been left at the correct address? Has it been given to someone else? The customer doesn’t know until they return home, so they take to Twitter to find out – where they’re often given a stock response a day later (by which time, the customer has probably returned home and found the parcel on their doorstep).

The second issue, and another one that causes unnecessary complaints, is the often used status update of ‘delivery refused’. Whenever the courier doesn’t have time to deliver a parcel which was supposed to be delivered that day, the status is updated with something like ‘delivery refused’. Obviously, this angers the customer who has been waiting in all day, and who hasn’t refused a delivery or even seen a delivery van. They then take to Twitter to complain. If the statuses were to elaborate a little on the actual reasons for the failed delivery, even if they’re not exactly what the customer wants to hear, it would at least give them a clear and honest reason why they didn’t receive their item.

A simple update to YODEL’s status codes used would drastically cut down the number of complaints the firm receives via Twitter, and reduce the load on the YODEL Twitter team. Once they have more time, YODEL’s Twitterers would be able to write individual responses to customers, rather than using the copy and paste responses that anger so many people.

As mentioned earlier, the ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ ideology should be employed, so customers know when they will receive a response. Getting back to each customer within the stipulated timeframe will make them feel valued, and will stop any complaints from escalating. This is how parody accounts start!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, YODEL should remember that the many parody accounts it has accumulated over the few short years it has been on Twitter rely on its own Twitter usage to be poor in order to survive. If YODEL did start responding to customers in a timely manner, with unique tweets, and answered their queries when it said it would, there would be no support for the parody accounts from YODEL’s customers.

After all, companies with good customer service don’t have parody accounts because there are no angry customers to give them fuel, and they offer no negative material for critics to use as ammunition.

And as YODEL should know, if comedy and satire is to thrive, it’s all about the delivery.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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