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.