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Take Action: 5 Reasons to Provide Customer Service Via Social Media

“Actions speak louder than words” – we’ve all heard that phrase, and in social media, it also applies.  I recently wrote about the importance of listening. Smart brands heed the warning. But after you have listened, then what? Here’s the novel part…you actually do something about what you hear. That’s right, take action – that means empowering the people in charge of your social media efforts to provide consumers and customers with resolutions to their problems. Social media is a new form of customer service. Sure as heck, we know that people are taking their complaints online, so why not take your customer service there?

Digital trends expert Steve Rubel has said, “An entire generation is growing up that will never dial a 1-800 number to reach customer care.” You think a few less calls in queue at the call center is nothing to worry about? Think again.

You may have heard about the recent “United Breaks Guitars” fiasco. If not, here’s the short version from the perspective of Dave Carroll (the customer who made the video): Dave flies United Airlines, his guitar gets broken by careless United workers, United refuses to take responsibility and after a series of complaints lasting nearly one year, Dave makes the United Breaks Guitars video exposing the incident and the company’s bad customer service. The video has gained more than 3 million views within a week – and that’s not all.

“Mainstream” media, including CNN, NPR, CBS, USA Today, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other traditional outlets globally, since picked up the story, some citing “digital revenge.” Talk about trouble for United, which posted on its Twitter account “This has struck a chord w/us and we’ve contacted him directly to make it right.” Too little too late? Many say, “absolutely.”  Social media types are all over United not only for its lack of initial responsiveness to the claim, but also how it is handling itself in the social media sphere. The company has not posted a response on YouTube (as Domino’s did after “disgusting Domino’s employee” video), and there is no mention of the issue on its Web site. (NOTE: Dominos received kudos from many on its use of social media after its incident.)

Think this warning only applies to big brands? Not at all. Companies big and small are having to deal with consumer complaints within the social media arena. A recent article in Search Engine Watch showcases a series of Tweets between a consumer and a small restaurant owner. The consumer complained on Twitter, the restaurant owner addressed the Tweet and provided a resolution – one that left the consumer saying “looking forward to the next meal.”

Here are 5 Reasons to Provide Customer Service Via Social Media:

  1. To address complaints where they are already happening and show you “get it.”
  2. To provide customer service quickly, often in real time (consumers like this – less wait time for them).
  3. To cut down on traditional customer service costs. Many argue that customer service via Twitter and other social networks can take less time and money than a dedicated call center.
  4. To show you are listing/care about your consumers.
  5. To provide consumer solutions publicly, where others can see them, spreading the goodwill of your brand. Remember, great customer service gets talked about.

Also, don’t forget that if you are to engage in social media, your employees must know the social media rules of the road, i.e. the “Dos and Don’ts” of social media. Employees should be trained in social media interaction, and have a clear understanding of how to use social media by being transparent, responsible and ethical in order to build long-term, sustainable relationships with consumers.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post on those “Dos and Don’ts.”

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