Social media customer service

[tweetmeme source=”barrydewar” alias=”” only_single=false]There’s been a move recently, by some very high profile companies, to begin using Twitter for customer support. They monitor the service for mentions of their brand and, if there’s a problem, they very publicly and visibly step in to elevate the problem and make sure it’s solved.

They do this because they can see the potential for social networks to amplify any negative feeling. It’s a good point. But it doesn’t solve the problem.

The Emperors new clothes

In pretty much all these cases, the customer service from these companies is basically just bad. By tackling visible complaints all they are doing is creating a handful of individual happy customers while simultaneously  making the rest of their customers that little bit more pissed off that they’d not getting the same treatment.

If social media is to teach us anything it’s that we have to change the way we interact with out customers across the board. Online and off we need to treat them with more respect and ensure that they are always satisfied. As social media grows in it’s influence people will become wise to these new tricks. Companies who hand-pick those who shout the loudest to get the best treatment will be viewed with the same derision as cold callers are at present.

So here’s my advice

Sort out your customer service first, then offer the same level of service in your social media channels. This way you will grow a network of happy brand advocates who talk about you just as glowingly in the hairdressers as they do on Twitter.


5 thoughts on “Social media customer service

  1. I agree Barry – after having used Twitter for this reason within a company it was just used as the “simple” way to help customers. It didn’t work and just got the customer service messy and dis-organised. Led to unhappy customers – fail!

  2. Agree – up to a point.

    True that bad customer service is fundamentally a business/organisational issue, and that they should look to sort this out.

    But at the same time I wouldn’t criticise a company that takes steps in offering to remedy customer services related issues as they find them on social networks/online.

    It doesn’t have to be one first before the other.

    In reality, even organisations that offer excellent customer service will still have a proportion of unhappy customers and they are right to look to address them, and in doing so manage and protect their brand online.

    As an communications consultant I would always advocate this, regardless of what happens at a business/organisational level.

  3. I see what you’re saying Allan and right now you’re right to advocate this as it’s a new playing field and brands need to make sure they on top of customer service in the social media space.

    I think, however, that if the companies who offer bad service continue to highlight the fact that they are looking after one set of customers better than another, hey are storing up trouble. As social media fills up with customers how do they keep up this level of service?

  4. Hi Barry,

    That’s a good point about companies keeping up the level of service when more people use social media.

    I think many senior managers at large organisations would be reluctant to have a dedicated Twitter customer service team.

    Prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to complaints and if companies can get their customer service right, there’s less chance of their reputations being damaged online.

  5. Although I agree with the point about “sorting out” customer service first I think that what was absent is the point that by engaging with social media many companies are being forced to raise their service game – and this benefits the consumer, whether they are using social channels or not.

    You say that “This way you will grow a network of happy brand advocates who talk about you just as glowingly in the hairdressers as they do on Twitter.” No brand wants unhappy customers, but the processes they have are so disconnected and ‘siloed’ that this is the net result. Social media often forces companies to unite over a common problem in my experience. Often for the first time.

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