Walking in the Customer’s Shoes: Why Your Customers Turn to Social Media for their Customer Service Problems

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I have spent the last two-plus months being a frustrated customer…a very frustrated customer. I did everything by the book, followed protocol, adhered to chain of command, you name it, but no one was listening or helping or caring. I felt like I had nowhere to turn for a service problem that was very real. It made me crabby, irritable, and I lost sleep over it. This was service failure of the worst kind and quite frankly, it made me question my loyalty to a brand I had touted for so many years. It was also a really good reminder for me of how easily our customers can get lost within our own doors, virtual or otherwise.

Here’s my story…

I had begun experiencing a significant service problem with a very expensive product I purchased at the end of April. Local attempts to resolve the problem were not successful, so in May, I started with an amicable call to corporate customer service to get the ball rolling. I explained the situation to the customer service representative, outlined what I hoped for resolution, and looked forward to hearing back from her in a reasonable amount of time.

Over the course of the few weeks, I dealt with (or more accurately, was transferred to) more than a dozen representatives from various parts of the company, went back and forth with an affiliate, and retold my story over and over and over again. After a month, unfortunately, I was no further ahead than when I started and my patience was wearing thin.

I could not understand how a large organization that had a lot of my money (thousands of my hard-earned dollars) was not able to address and resolve the matter at hand in a reasonable amount of time, let alone get me to the right person or department. I was being shuffled around so much that the picture was clear…not only did they not want to deal with the situation, they didn’t know how to deal with it. My favorite moment was when one representative told me that she had no idea if they had an Office of the President (or comparable place to address escalated issues) and there was no manager on duty in her department to whom she could transfer me.

Knowing that I had no other recourse, I did what many of us hope our customers won’t do…I turned to social media for help. I posted my concerns professionally on the company’s Facebook page and their blog site, indicating that after a month of trying, I was still getting nowhere and needed to talk with someone in their Office of the President. I knew that if they were the kind of company that actively managed their social media presence, one of two things would happen. My posts would either be deleted or ignored because they didn’t want to deal with it or I would receive a helpful and informative response back within a few hours. Fortunately, it was the latter. In short order, their social media team posted a service-oriented response for me on Facebook and gave me information for reaching them directly. As a bonus, the blog manager also responded to me via email with a comparable message. I eventually hooked up with the top customer service group in the company and two weeks ago, more than two months after starting this whole process, the matter was finally resolved to my satisfaction.

I’d like to report that going the social media route was all it took to move things along, but that was not the case. I still had to drive the resolution more than I should have, which was really disheartening considering how long I’ve been their customer and how many dollars I’ve spent with them over the years. However, social media was an incredibly valuable step in getting much-needed visibility for me with the company.

This whole experience was a huge eye-opener on a lot of fronts. For one, I have a healthier respect for the customer experience. I’ve walked a few rocky miles in their shoes these past few months and have a greater appreciation for how easy it is to lose customers if we’re not delivering our best service. If we’re not bringing our ‘A’ game, not anticipating customer needs, and failing to fulfill simple promises, customers today can and will turn to social media to get satisfaction.

It also gave me a flavor for how easy it is to damage a company’s reputation with a few ill-placed words on the web. In my situation, I was careful in how I phrased the issue, knowing full well that a few choice words on my part could have cascaded into a highly visible customer service nightmare for the company. Other organizations, as we know, have not been so lucky.

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool whose impact cannot be underestimated. It is an extraordinary marketing vehicle with an unmatched reach, but it’s also an invaluable resource for customers who find themselves with no where else to turn to address their service concerns. They key to success is how companies manage their social media presence. If done well (24/7 management, highly responsive approach to customers), even the most challenging customer service situations can reflect well on the company. Managed poorly (minimal online presence, sporadic responsiveness), it can drive customers away in droves.

The moral of the story…

When customers feel that they have no other option but to take their customer services concerns online, that is exactly what they will do. To avoid this, companies need to take exceptional care of their customers, proactively drive solutions from the very first contact, and ensure that customers never have a reason to go outside of the contact center for resolution. Otherwise, greater numbers of savvy customers are going to turn to social media to air their concerns, resulting in negative publicity for the company that could have been completely avoided.

It is also imperative for companies with a social media presence to manage it well with constant monitoring and regular reach-outs whether the posts are positive, negative, or neutral. That way, if customers ‘go social’ because they have no where else to turn, there is a rapid, proactive, and professional response mechanism in place to address the customer’s concerns before things even have a chance of getting out of hand.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Teresa Sinel
Teresa Sinel is the Director of Operations, Analytics and Innovation for VIPdesk, the award-winning pioneer of home-based virtual customer care solutions for global brand leaders committed to enhancing their brand experience. Serving over 40 client programs and 10 million customers, VIPdesk specializes in delivering Concierge Programs, Contact Center Services, and loyalty programs for national brand leaders in the travel, auto, financial services, real estate and retail industries.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great post Teresa. As you say, it’s so important to make it easy for your customers to let you know directly about any problems they’re having with your product/service before things reach more public channels.

    In many cases, customers will head to your website as a first port of call to seek resolution, so it’s a good idea to deploy a simple feedback tool like Feedbackify which will give you the first opportunity to resolve any potentially harmful issues before they have a chance to escalate.

  2. Excellent post Teresa, as it is all to true!

    Having worked for a large Telco that has embraced the power of social media (and do it really well) – it is imperative for companies these days to be able to see what their customers are saying about them.

    Good, consistent customer service is sometimes very had to find – however social media is now opening the door for consumers to have a voice and be heard, which is in turn making sure businesses remain on top of their game by creating a positive customer experience.

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