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Social Media and Customer Service

Article by on September 29, 2010 Editor's Pick No Comments

Can social media be used to service your customers? It is fast, interactive, and convenient for end-customers. But, at the same time, it poses new challenges to companies in terms of organizational structure, dynamic workflow, and resource allocation.

I first came in contact with Anjali Ramachandran in early 2009 when she tweeted about a problem she had with The Carphone Warehouse. At that time, I was working at The Carphone Warehouse as their Customer Knowledge Manager, and was responding to customers’ complaints and queries via Twitter.

The issue was resolved quickly and successfully, and Anjali wrote a short blog about the experiment/experience.[1] Reading through Anjali’s blog again recently I was interested in her choice of words and phrases to describe the ‘experiment’: positive, apologizing, pleasantly surprised, very impressed, very helpful, very courteous, didn’t…waste my time, thumbs up to you. One phrase in particular stood out: …his [Guy Stephens] response was pretty much immediate (so I didn’t have time to formulate any negative theories.)

I recently tweeted Anjali to try to understand more about her experience at the time. Here are a few brief excerpts from that longer conversation.

Why did you resort to social media?
I was tired of being placed on hold for interminable periods on the phone, which historically has been a brand’s mode of choice for engaging with customers. I was also tired of sending emails which, if they are acknowledged at all, get nothing more than an automated reply – something that is extremely impersonal and gives no indication of whether anything will be done at all. Twitter is a public forum and brands don’t want to be seen as negative when customers complain about them there…

Why go from a blog to Twitter?
In the specific case that you helped me with, I felt that escalating to Twitter would be more likely to be noticed, and therefore solve my problem.

What were you expecting by using Twitter?
In The Carphone Warehouse case, my expectation was that something would happen and also to talk about it with fellow consumers who may have experienced the same thing.

Why do you think companies seem to get it right on Twitter?
It’s about the personal connection. Traditional call centers are usually outsourced and customers are directed to someone who often does not understand their situation, leading them to become very frustrated.

You started off as a detractor, by the end you became an advocate…
I became an advocate because the resolution of the issue was favorable, and in addition, the experience was good. With American Airlines, however, I had a less than 100% satisfactory resolution but the experience was excellent, and I’m an advocate because the specific issue wasn’t easy to solve, which I understood.

Do companies set unrealistic expectations that complaints can be resolved by Twitter?
No. If a brand is on Twitter, which mixes the personal (the ability to have individual conversations via @ messages and DMs) with the public (what is said can be seen by all and re-tweeted to reach many more people), the very fact that they are on Twitter means that they’ve committed to listening to their consumers and solving their problems in a personal way.

Footnote:

1. Carphone Warehouse on Twitter: Service with a Virtual Smile, by Anjali Ramachandran, http://anjalir.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/carphone-warehouse-on-twitter-service-with-a-virtual-smile/.

This document “Social Media under One Roof: Integrate Social Media with the TCE Model” is composed of nine sections. Three sections are written by Sampson Lee, and experts in each specific domain contributed the other six sections: Wendy Soucie from Wendy Soucie Consulting; Karl Havard from pownum; Jim Sterne from Web Analytics Association; Axel Schultze from Xeesm; Rick Mans from Capgemini; and Guy Stephens from Foviance.

Section ONE: Where Social Media meets Customer Life Stages
Section TWO: Social Media and Research & Development
Section THREE: Social Media and Branding/Public Relations
Section FOUR: Social Media and Marketing
Section FIVE: Social Media and Sales
Section SIX: Social Media and Operations
Section SEVEN: Social Media and Customer Service
Section EIGHT: Integrating Social Media with Total Customer Experience
Section NINE: Managing Your Brand and Social Media with One System

Click here to read the 30-page complete document in PDF format.

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