I posted a reference to the “ Customer Service using Twitter ” article and “Factors to Consider when using Twitter for Customer Service” article on LinkedIn and received many comments back.
Here are some comments followed by my observations.
Community Manager, conversation & community strategist, social media educator & tactician
Nice post Adele. Some companies are making the effort, which is both great and important. It’s folly to ignore what’s happening or play refusenik.But I think your hunch is correct, there remains more lip service and rhetoric around customer/user-centricity than there is pragmatic practice. Keeping an informed, response-ready ear to the social web is a first, key step, but monitoring is unprofitable without adequate, actionable support, resources and a commitment to follow through.
I see a lot of hat tipping – ‘sorry you had an unsatisfactory x, give us another chance’. While it’s great that companies notice and publicly concede (own) the undesirable customer experience, is this really very different from a compassionate smile at the counter as you’re told it couldn’t be helped?
I think it’s also important that the transposition to the social web doesn’t disadvantage customers or users who are unwilling or unable to maintain a presence there. Customer service and community professionals need to keep this in mind as they augment their support across social media. Making someone on Twitter happy *purely* because their complaints are more visible and potentially carry more social currency than a non-tweeting customer is unacceptable.
Revisit your core customer principles – if they are robust and flexible in application, they’ll serve you in person, on Twitter, Wave and whatever lies around the corner.
Any customer service process should be designed and managed regardless of the tool it will use: a tool free line, email, letter, a service counter, etc… Sometimes I have the feeling that some companies are first choosing the tool (twitter seems to be the hottest now) and then, seeing what happens.
But we cannot neglect the fact that SouthWest has almost 700.000 followers, that can quickly reached at one click with very low cost…
Hi Adele, Interesting discussion and it boils down to how a company defines ‘customer service’. Venessa is right about lip service – there are many examples of brands jumping on the social media bandwagon without any structure or understanding of what they are doing and why. Just look at Habitat’s hashtag mistake.
Augment is the key word. Social media is a channel, it is not a business function. A business can use social media to monitor brand conversation, engage with customers and take action. However, this does not negate the need for a professional customer service policy behind it. Channels like Twitter need to integrate with this policy and support the overall goals.
You are right that saying “so sorry to hear you had problems” is not problem resolution. It is the first stage of issue management, problem acceptance. It is essential that action is then taken – as Southwest Airlines is reported to have done with the customer’s return flight.
I do think some companies use Twitter well as part of their customer service provision (BTCare is a good example). Most importantly, it is a more direct communication tool than email/phone because you can interact instantly without having to wait for a call centre person to become available. This enables companies to provide a more effective level of first line support. The challenge is then how they back this up with the resources to ensure that the communication is brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
I’ve RT your blogs to see what other people think.
Moray Tourism Executive and Social Media business adviser
Good article Adele. There is such an opportunity for businesses to use Twitter as a Customer Service tool and you’re right in your article. You need a staff member with the right skills, mindset and attitude, and the company has to embrace it.Thanks for sharing!Rene
I particularly like the term used by Vanessa: AUGMENT their support across social media. Companies need to think that Social Media is an augmentation to their support process, not a replacement. I think that is the KEY and I don’t know that there is a model of who is doing it best YET. It is certain that companies need to investigate it! Twitter is hardly the place to handle detailed issues with its 140 character limit.Privacy should be a concern when a customer provides details needed to resolve problems. I wouldn’t want my personal information logged in a Twitter stream! this is all the more reason why Twitter service should be taken ‘off line’.
Another excellent point from these comments is the distinction between an external ‘problem’ ..ie what the customer is complaining about’ and there is the inside feeling people have about the problem. Sometimes, you cannot change the external issue or the speed of resolution (eg finding the source of a complex Software bug), but companies can change how the customer perceives they are being treated..with respect, with caring, with courtesy, .and that is communication. Sometimes what you cannot immediately fix, can be mitigated with good communication.
The follow on challenge..is how to avoid the problem in the first place or, if you cannot avoid the problem, how to minimize the customer pain, perhaps by notification of the issue before it hits the customer.
I welcome your comments, feedback and questions.