Social Media Customer Service – Brands Still Not Getting It Right

Another week, and another report outlining the ever-increasing importance of Social Media customer service. What caught my eye so much about this latest one, is that still, in a recent survey, out of the ‘Top 25 Online Retailers’ (US); only 44% of customer tweets were answered, less than half!

I was genuinely surprised by this stat. I was under the impression that in 2012, brands were finally starting to catch on and improve their performance in this area. It’s alarming when you see an online behemoth like Amazon, failing to respond to customer tweets, and even more so when you read that “people who have used social media for customer service at least once in the past year are willing to spend 21% more with companies that provide great service.”

It seems that even the biggest brands are still failing to grasp the unavoidable reality that more and more of their customers are using Twitter to express their discontent, their praise, and crucially their inquiries directly to the source.

The surprising thing is that you can definitely see an increase in the amount of brands using Twitter to assist their customers, it just seems like most of them aren’t really doing as good a job as they should. The thing is, resource issues aside, if your customers dictate that you need to do a better job, you simply need to do a better job.

Brands need to realise that they’re not A-list celebrities. Yes Twitter has given a lot of people the false sense of entitlement that if they tweet a Hollywood celebrity, they expect, if not demand, an answer. Obviously it doesn’t work like that, but at the same time, Twitter has empowered these same people to expect more from their brands and companies. After all, it’s a company’s job to serve their customers, not the other way round (despite how some of them act). So if your company gets a tweet from a customer, you need to respond.

But in other ways, brands need to be exactly like an A-list Hollywood celebrity, if taken in the sense of displaying the same paranoid level of insecurity that leads to obsessively checking any, and everything that’s being said about them.

I recently saw an example of a brand who have a fantastic level of customer service on Twitter. They pride themselves on it, and rightly so. However, at the same time, sentiment around their overall customer service was overwhelmingly negative. Why? Because despite their shining example on Twitter, there were still things like the call centre holding times, the automated messages, the lack of information on their website, that just weren’t good enough, and their customers weren’t shy in taking to Twitter to say so. Within the organisation, there was a fundamental disconnect between the Twitter service employees and the rest of the organisation, leaving the Twitter guys to clean up the mess.

The moral of the story (aside from outlining the importance of a fully integrated company-wide Social CRM solution) is that, as ever, it’s not about using social media for the sake of it, it’s about using it to your advantage to pinpoint the areas that you need to improve on, and you find this out by listening to your customers. Just as it is important to answer their tweets to you, it’s just as important to listen to them when they’re stating overwhelmingly how bad your phone service is for example.

As ever, the proof is in the pudding, or the sentiment report, or the consumer forums, or the long term effect on your bottom line: If you’re not performing well, then there will be plenty of people out there ready to tell you so.

As the report outlined, it may be true that social-media–savvy customers have higher expectations of your brand, but this is exactly why brands need to step up their efforts, accept the changing landscape and use it to their advantage.


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