Customer Service and Social Media

Today I was on a panel talking about social media best practices for PRSA Sacramento. My plan was to talk about social media and customer service.  Instead, I ended up talking about the Grateful Dead. That’s a different post that will come soon.

Since I didn’t cover the thoughts in the meeting today, I wanted to try them out here and see if they make sense to anyone else.  In my view, customer service may very well eclipse news and conversations as the use of social media with the most lasting impact.  Consumers are beginning to expect immediate responses from companies when they mention a problem or poor experience with a product or service, and if they don’t get it they get louder.

Is this somewhat self-centered, impatient or rude behavior? Yes, probably, but companies still have to listen and respond.  My recommendation when looking at how your company deals with customer service using social media is boiled down to the “Three A’s.”  Growing up going to baseball games at the Oakland Coliseum the “Three A’s” were the outfield of Henderson, Murphy and Armas, but the Three A’s here are:

  • Awareness – companies have to be always looking for people talking about their products. You can’t wait for people to come to you anymore, they go to the crowd, or perhaps more accurately here “the cloud” first. They shout into the ether with their problem and expect you to hear it.
  • Attitude – “Customer service,” for many companies is a pain. It is looked at as a cost, not a profit center. It’s also something that should be minimized in the eyes of many. Sorry, look at it as a marketing cost and opportunity to turn someone (and all of their friends) into evangelists for your company and approach those with issues with a positive attitude, not with an eye roll and and an “Oh geez,” what is wrong with these people.
  • Action – Make sure that whomever is responding for the company can take action that can rectify a situation quickly.  Look at Zappo’s and how they go out of their way to help customers. They empower the heck out of their employees to make things right for customers.

Southwest Airlines seems to have grabbed hold of this concept and is running with it as highlighted in this article from The Boston Globe last year. Below is an excerpt of how Southwest is using Twitter to stay on top of issues before they become problems:

“For example, when Travis Johnson, known by the Twitter handle, “pastortrav,” complained recently about Southwest’s check-in process, he received a quick, public response from an airline employee saying, “So sorry to hear it! What don’t you like about the check-in process? Did your flight get off okay?”

This kind of response is like when two kids are talking in the back of the classroom and the teacher says,”Is there something you would like to share with the rest of the class?” They lower their heads, stare at their desks and mumble a quiet, “no.”

I’m not saying that people don’t have problems when they fly, but by being quick and asking if there was anything that could be helped, most of the time it will end there and you keep a small irritation from becoming a major problem.

Not everything can be solved with the “Three A’s,” but if Rickey Henderson can steal 130 bases and Dwayne Murphy was able to keep his cap from falling off his head (at least sometimes) then your company can do pretty well with customer service.


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