Should a Brand feel obliged to respond to Customer Service Complaints through Social Media?
Over the last few months I’ve been speaking at a number of Customer Service and Customer Experience conferences in the UK, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
I was invited to speak about best practice in how companies, organisations and brands can use Social Media for Customer Service. It became apparent at each event that a great many brands (and some were global organisations) were freely admitting that they simply “couldn’t cope” because the technology in consumers’ pockets is more efficient at communication than their own legacy systems.
My Grandmother once told me a story of how when she lived in London many years ago, she used to shop for groceries at Fortnum & Mason – the well known department store. Apparently on one occasion she opened a tin of cat food, only to find a mouse inside. Whilst her cat would no doubt have been delighted, it was certainly not what my Grandmother had expected from a store such as Fortnum’s.
A handwritten letter was duly dispatched to the store Manager, to be rewarded a day later by a Fortnum’s van arriving with profuse apologies and a year’s supply of cat food. Now that’s ‘proper’ customer service.
Today, when we have a complaint, we often turn to Social Media – particularly Twitter. These interactions vary from downright hostile on the part of the complainant, through to polite and friendly - however the sheer volume of complaints to organisations through Social Media is on some occasions overwhelming – and it’s no wonder that many brands say that their internal systems aren’t up to the job.
Of course, any of us who complain simply want an explanation, an apology, the problem put right – and all done promptly and in a friendly, professional manner and perhaps with some fair recompense.
About three years ago I ran a day’s Social Media workshop for the marketing department of a household name multinational technology company. At one point I asked them how they used Twitter – largely because they didn’t seem to have much of a presence, despite their name being mentioned every thirty to sixty seconds by customers around the world. Almost every mention of their company was neutral or positive and certainly no customer service complaints.
Specifically I asked them what their policy was on responding to queries and questions that they received through Twitter. I was a little surprised to be told that their policy is to ignore communications through Twitter “…because Twitter was a trivial medium”.
I went on to ask how businesses and customers like me might make a complaint or customer service query direct to them rather than go through a retailer. I was told that I would be directed to a “special form” on their website. In other words, I could only complain or give feedback in the way that the company wanted me to. I certainly couldn’t see my Grandmother standing for that nonsense.
So this organisation had a Twitter account, but was seemingly only using it to communicate in one direction - outwards. If a complaint was to be made it would be made on the company’s terms, not the customer’s.
Without wishing to point the finger at the telecommunications giant BT in particular, anyone who wants to get in touch with them