Social Media and Customer Service

Social media can be a tool to strengthen customer service and to give consumers an outlet to complain about a company. According to Convergys Corp, one bad tweet or one negative comment on Facebook can lose a company up to 30 customers. 

Remember the 2009 YouTube video sensation entitled “United Breaks Guitars”? The musician, whose guitar allegedly was damaged by United Airlines baggage handlers, created three videos chronicling his experience.  The video amassed over 10 million views by February 2011. The Times newspaper reported that within 4 days of the video being posted online United Airline’s stock price fell 10% costing shareholders $180 million in value. While the experience launched a music career, United Airline’s financial loss and public humiliation moved them to improve their customer service policy.

AT&T, one of the world’s leading communications service providers, launched a powerful presence on Facebook that currently engages over 1.4 million fans.  Assigning a team of more than 20 of its top performing customer service managers exclusively to social media, AT&T reduced customer response time to 15 minutes. An AT&T survey indicated their customer service was actually exceeding people’s expectations.

Social media has had an impact on customer service – at least for those businesses who have the the mindset to use this tool as another way to improve quality customer service. BBB offers some advice or points to consider before a frustrated or angry consumer hits the “send” button on a blog or customer review:

Social Media makes complaining “easyand can potentially be false or misleading. It takes “sleuthing” to determine if comments posted, whether favorable or damaging, are truly filed by a customer with a genuine experience with that business.  Are those postings paid for by an employer, a disgruntled employee or a competitor?  Copy the postings, post in Google and see if the comments are found elsewhere – a yellow flag they may be staged.

 Don’t lose your sense of fairness. Using the adage from the playground, blogs and reviews can be unfair when the other side of the story is not heard or given an opportunity to respond.  Consumers may use reviews that do not permit the business an opportunity to respond to the posting. Therefore, a company may not be able to modify or improve their services because they simply were uninformed. Their customer service may not have received the opportunity to respond because the customer chose social media as an outlet rather than going directly to the business.

BBB | Greater Maryland’s opinion is these social resources can be positive, helpful and a quick tool for research, but customers should not solely rely upon social media posts as the only tool to make their pre-purchase decisions.  BBB Reviews are designed to provide factual information about a business, including details such as licensing, government action and other industry specific information.  When a business does not voluntarily provide such information to be posted for their potential customers, that failure is noted in the Review. 

BBB believes customer complaints should be given an opportunity to be addressed by the business and for both parties to work toward resolution within the privacy of their own exchanges, with only the results and general nature of the dispute to be published.  BBB has been concerned that consumers would no longer turn to dispute resolution services but rather just settle for a blog or a post and move on.  But social media has had no effect on the number of complaints reported to BBB and consumers who use these dispute resolution services are seeking more than just venting – they are seeking resolution that may put money back in their pockets, cancel a contract, or get the job finished.  Social media doesn’t always give the opportunity for those results – unless you post a creative and successful YouTube video  – and not everyone can do just that!

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About Jody Thomas