Brands are expected to address issues as they arise online
Social media is a powerful tool for businesses. It helps them connect, engage, and establish trust with current and prospective clients, increase brand awareness, website traffic and ultimately increase sales.
But long gone are the days of calling an automated customer service hotline, only to listen to stale elevator music and stay on hold for half an hour. Now, brands are expected to address issues as they arise online.
If you were browsing Facebook or Twitter and you saw a comment like this about your company, I bet you’d instinctively want to respond to that customer to try to fix the relationship. Comments like these put us on the defensive – we want to prove to both this customer and everyone else that will see this post that our companies deliver high-quality service. It’s this instinct that has led to the growth of social media as a customer service channel.
When customers do use social media for service, they often feel forced to go there to “vent” – as a last resort because the company was “ignoring my issues in other channels.” If we want to achieve resolution for customers, shouldn’t our first priority to be to fix the gaps in traditional service channels like phone and web self-service – the channels customers tend to prefer?
Customers don’t necessarily care what channel their issues are resolved in
If issue resolution is the goal, then we have to look at social media’s ability to fully resolve service issues. The majority of customers don’t necessarily care what channel their issues are resolved in, just as long as it is fast and easy. That’s what makes the solution work for them. Unfortunately, social media can require back and forth messages to gather required details (and often ends up in an e-mail or phone call to gather personal information). If we know resolution for a particular issue in social media will be a frustrating process for customers, shouldn’t we guide them away from social media and towards a channel that will provide a better experience?
By successfully handling customer service requests in social media, companies teach their customers not only that they can get resolution in social media, but inadvertently show them that to “jump the line” and get immediate attention, they should just publicly complain.
Of course, social media can effectively be used for certain types of customer service. We’ve seen vibrant online customer communities for technical products where customers solve each other’s problems, instances of avoiding customer churn by reaching out to complaining customers via Twitter, and times when customers get information on Facebook that teaches them about their product.
Now, more than ever, customers need a lot of careful babying
Providing the kind of customer service and customer experience that will generate loyalty and profits in our technologically altered world isn’t a fundamentally different proposition than it was a decade ago, but it’s faster. More transparent. More twitchy. Unforgiving. Viral. Magnified. But still designed by, implemented by, and dedicated to people. So don’t throw the baby out with the digital bathwater. Now, more than ever, customers need a lot of careful babying.
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