Wednesday, September 5, 2018

YOUR Social Media Era Customer Service?


Customer service in the social media era: Complain publicly or get nothing..

It is remarkable how many stories about companies behaving badly these days begin with a wronged customer trying to solve the situation directly with the company and only after the company refuses to make things right, airing their grievances on social media, wherein the story goes viral and the company immediately apologizes and fixes things.



I was reminded of this simple fact recently in my own attempts to have a company address a major series of errors it made regarding my account, to no avail.

More than a year of emails, phone calls and even good old-fashioned letters got me absolutely nowhere. Then I learned from a colleague that she too had had the same problem but had bypassed all my hardship by simply telling the company that it had 48 hours to resolve things or she would be airing all of her grievances on social media.

Within hours the company had not only made everything right for her but had given her major concessions in return for her troubles. She was even given the direct phone number of a senior executive and told to call direct in future with any problems. The company’s only request was to beg her not to talk publicly on social media about the errors it had made. What does this tell us about customer service in the social media era?



As someone who grew up in the pre-social media era, I learned that in conflicts with companies, as in Vegas, the house usually wins.

Even in cases rising to criminal fraud or clear civil violations, companies can usually escape fairly scot-free or keep the case in court for years until the customer simply gives up. Arguing with the manager or escalating to corporate headquarters could on occasion win a few concessions, but only if the company thought the customer had a mediagenic story that might yield negative press.

In the social media era all of that has been upended. An aggrieved customer can now reach a quarter of the population of the planet with a single post, transforming what would formerly have been a minor nuisance into a major public relations catastrophe that could damage its stock price and even lead to forced executive resignations.



The bidirectional nature of social media means that in contrast to the broadcast monologues of traditional media, a viral post on social can turn into a global dialog with others across the world chiming in with their own stories and rapidly organizing protests and boycotts against the offending company.

In the past a company could rest confident that even the most viral of negative press would rapidly fizzle out as the news agenda grew bored and moved on to other topics. Social media has no such inorganic pressures, meaning the story can continue to snowball and repeatedly reenter the news cycle until the company takes action.



This means that a single negative story can, in the space of a few hours, yield millions of similar stories and leap to the headlines of traditional media and in turn to the attention of lawmakers.

Companies have reacted to this by elevating social media monitoring into a central component of their customer relations strategies. Comcast famously was an early company to make social media a first-class customer contact channel, rapidly responding to complaints and taking action to resolve them, such as escalating to local offices.

Speaking with colleagues and neighbors, I was amazed just how many situations each had experienced with companies large and small where complaining to a manager or writing an email yielded nothing, but a brief tweet generated an immediate apology and correction of the problem.



The end result is that companies have trained an entire generation of society that if you want a company to apologize, just threaten to blackmail it on social media and most likely you’ll get your way.

Attempt to resolve things amicably offline and you’re likely to be either ignored or receive far less compensation. Of course, this is no different than the past, in which companies based their responses on how much media attention they thought a disgruntled customer could garner.

However, in the past the news media acted as gatekeeper and largely covered only the most egregious violations of trust. In contrast, the social era’s lack of gatekeeper means that anyone anywhere, no matter how small their grievance, can wreak public relations devastation, forcing companies to forcefully respond to even the most minor of concerns.



In the end, perhaps if companies offered those who reached out the old-fashioned way the same treatment as those who publicly blackmail them on social media, more people would choose to just resolve things the simple and quiet way.

Instead, by teaching us that public blackmail is the only way to get them to respond, companies are encouraging the very behavior they hope to discourage.

Guest Authored By Kalev Leetaru. Kalev is based in Washington, DC, he founded his first internet startup the year after the Mosaic web browser debuted, while still in eighth grade, he's spent the last 20 years working to re-imagine how we use data to understand the world around us at scales and in ways never before. Follow Kalev on Twitter.





"In the end, perhaps if companies offered those who reached out the old-fashioned way the same treatment as those who publicly blackmail them on social media, more people would choose to just resolve things the simple and quiet way. Instead, by teaching us that public blackmail is the only way to get them to respond, companies are encouraging the very behavior they hope to discourage.." -KalevLeetaru


    • Post Crafted By:
      Fred Hansen Pied Piper of Social Media Marketing at GetMoreHere.com & CEO of Millennium 7 Publishing Co. in Salt Lake City, UT. where I work deep in the trenches of social media strategy, community management and trends.  My interests include; online business educator, social media marketing, new marketing technology, skiing, hunting, fishing and The Rolling Stones..-Not necessarily in that order ;)
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