How to Manage Customer Service via Social Media (and why it’s really not enough)

O2 social media customer service excels whilst all other forms failSocial media empowers customers. It provides all of us a public medium through which to share our praise or, as is becoming more common, to voice our grievances.

As marketers, we should embrace this. Enhanced communication is a fantastic thing and when our customers feel so connected to our brand that they engage with us on social media, we’re doing a good job.

Or are we?

When it comes to customer service, there are dangers we need to avoid. As our social media customer service improves, there are companies for whom more traditional customer service is suffering.

When social outshines traditional CS

As those who follow me on Twitter will have gathered, I’ve been having some ‘challenging times’ with telecomms provider O2 terrible customer service. Not wanting to publically air my issues, I spent over a month communicating solely with their call centre and their online chat. But it was only when I changed my tact and went via their o2 on Twittermedia that, a full 6 weeks later,  my issue was resolved thanks to the understanding and competency of the team on Twitter.

It’s fantastic news for O2 that their social media team performed so well. They displayed some real key elements of good customer service:

1) They responded within an hour – an expectation for social media comms;
2) They handled my query without passing me off to another team (although they may well have communicated with other teams themselves);
3) They weren’t afraid to take the issue offline. In fact, one girl called me directly on the phone so she could explain something more clearly.

It’s very bad new, however, that O2’s online chat and call centre services fell down on every one of these points (they even managed to damage my phone due to their poor handling of the issue, leading to them having to send me a new, upgraded handset for free).

Managing expectations on social media

Whilst ensuring social media channels are fully managed in a way that enables them to perform customer service well, it is essential that they are not the only medium for good customer service.

In the case of O2 as an example, were I to require their assistance again, I would go through their social media team without second thought. And I’d do it publically, having now been conditioned to believe that I’ll get better, faster service by asking for it with the world watching.

If other O2 customers catch on to this, they’ll probably do the same. And O2’s Twitter feed will start to fill up with queries and complaints, putting them in the position of ‘fire fighting’ rather than allowing them to develop their online voice.

When we condition our audience to believe that they’ll only get good service by airing their grievances publicly, they’re only going to air them publicly in the future.

It’s a key lesson for digital marketing. Yes, we must optimise our social media channels, but it is only through maintaining every single customer touch point that we can provide the customer experience the today’s audiences expect.


7 thoughts on “How to Manage Customer Service via Social Media (and why it’s really not enough)

    • Hi Ian,

      Thanks for sharing your post. What an incredible experience you had! Sounds like quick response was a key part of Morrisons’ success, but also being able to deliver a solution so quickly is admirable.

      That said, it seems from the follow up blog you’ve written that many of the other people who received what turned out to be an auto-response from Morrisons did not get such a positive outcome.

      Why do you think your experience was so positive? And do you think you would have received such a response if you’d complained outside of social media?

      Let me know if you’d be interested in writing a guest post on my blog around this, would be a pleasure to get your thoughts on the impact social media had on your customer service experience.



      • I would love to Laura – my experience was a great one for many reasons, but my concern (as a customer experience professional) was always going to be understanding if what happened to me would be replicated over and over again. Mike Sutton’s research shows that the answer is ‘not yet’!!

  1. Such a shame isn’t it.

    Part of me wonders if they took a look at your website/Twitter and thought ‘this guy’s influential, we’d better please him’. But kudos to them on responding so quickly either way.

    It seems creating a positive experience for you certainly paid off and they’re getting some decent, free, coverage. But if they can’t replicate that experience for other people, the value of what they did for you is kind of lost.

    Feel free to draft a guest post for me and email to laurahampton at hotmail dot co dot uk and I’d be happy to post it here.

    • The cynic in me agrees with you. What I will say though is that the general manager was as a genuine as they get. He was delighted to get feedback to give him the impetus to make change that he almost certainly knew was necessary anyway. However, as with one of the other Morrisons customers that day, I can imagine that not every consumer would be happy for the general manager to phone them. It is a very tricky game to play. At the end of the day, if a company is willing and able to listen, act and feedback in a way that meets and potentially exceeds customer expectation without any other motivation, they will be in a very good place.

      I’ll sort out some words and get back to you. Great to get connected by the way!

  2. Absolutely agreed.

    Thanks for that Ian. Yes great to connect with you too. I used to work in a user experience agency and customer experience is still very much at the forefront through everything I do, so it’s great to chat about that stuff with you.

    I look forward to your post.

  3. Pingback: Should Social Media be a Tool for Consumer Battles? | I think, therefore I write...

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