Can social media revive customer service?

August 9, 2010

customer_service “The last eighteen months have witnessed a huge shift in the way that customers seek help for their customer service queries, problems and complaints,” writes Guy Stephens on the Econsultancy blog.

OSCPA prides itself on having customer service representatives available for members. When someone calls the OSCPA office during business hours they talk with a live person on the other end of the phone. Our Member Services Center, CPAnswers, is dedicated to helping our members, and those who wish to learn more about our organization and the CPA profession. But as anybody who has interacted with OSCPA knows, the organization’s entire staff is connecting with members and other business professionals. OSCPA uses Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging to reach out and join the conversation. Stephens highlights the importance of utilizing social media to redefine customer service:

“Social media by its very nature is highlighting the need for businesses to break down their departmental silos. Stakeholders from sales, marketing, customer services, brand, PR, compliance, business operations are having to come together to redefine, not their social media policies, . . . but the way they fundamentally look at their customers. Social media gives the notion of customer-centricity a chance.”

Poor customer service at many locations has only been deteriorating. Jumping through endless menus with no hope of reaching an actual person unless you choose zero, and even then the “customer service” representatives you reach are most likely outsourced, often speak minimal English and can actually do very little to really help you, is the last thing that I want to deal with when I call customer service to resolve an issue or answer a question.

When I encounter a scenario like this, it usually just ends up with me becoming more frustrated. And what happens when people become frustrated? We complain. And people these days don’t just pick up the phone and complain to their best friend. I, like most people involved in social media, take my complaints online. And I don’t complain to the companies directly. I complain to my Facebook friends and my Twitter followers.

Passive? Yes. Effective? Consider these examples and then decide for yourself.

When Jane Lee, OSCPA manager of Education & Training experienced less than stellar service when Enterprise failed to pick her up at the promised time, she sounded off on the situation on Twitter while she waited:

JaneOSCPA: Apparently when Enterprise says they’ll pick you up that means to add at least 40 minutes to your pick up time.

And as any good company who is listening to their customers, Enterprise contacted Jane to remedy the situation. And because of their quick action and good customer service response, Jane made sure that her followers knew:

JaneOSCPA: Enterprise customer service contacted me in response to my post re: late pickup & made amends! Thx @enterprisecares.

Another example occurred just recently when I attended a webinar on social media. When I registered for the (free) webinar, I expected one hour filled with information on how to “increase your social media marketing ROI for businesses and executives.” The first 20 or so minutes were very informative and I even commented on Twitter that I was attending a webinar from this company:

kvitartas: Sitting in on a webinar on social media with @smmagic.

However, it quickly turned into a hard sell for hiring them to become our social media consultants. I can understand how their services might benefit some, and I should have realized that the webinar was more of a sales pitch had I done more research, but this webinar was quickly becoming a waste of time. Here was my follow-up Twitter comment:

kvitartas: Didn’t realize this webinar from @smmagic was going to turn into an infomercial.

I’m still waiting on a response from the company.

The bottom line if you’re on social networks is to be listening, to find the conversation and join in, and above all else, respond to your customers when they reach out to you! What do you do if you’re not involved in these social networks? Join them. Lurk around and see what people are saying about your company or services, and then become involved.

An article on Social CRM versus Real Customer Service sums up the social media/customer service relationship best:

“We all know that social media and customer engagement are extremely important, but they can only be effective when working hand-in-hand with the right customer support processes. The most important thing for any customer, beyond being able to follow you on Twitter, is to be able to get answers and solutions whenever needed.”

In today’s online environment, customer service and responding to situations quickly is more important than ever. Every company, from the largest corporation to the smallest CPA firm, needs to anticipate that a customer can take a complaint online through social media. This means that when they complain, their complaint can be simultaneously heard by tens, hundreds or thousands of people in their – and their friends’ – online network. It’s a new world, and that means new tools, new challenges and new opportunities abound. Are you using social media when you complain? Are you following others who take their complaints online? Are you prepared for the challenge?

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