/ Technology

Customer service must improve on social networks

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Have you ever mentioned brand names on Twitter or Facebook? If so, I’ll bet that one, it was a complaint and two, they didn’t respond. So why aren’t brands providing better customer service on social networking sites?

Not long ago I was at an online media conference where there was lots of talk about how big brands should be using social media to communicate with their customers.

Twitter’s Product Marketing Manager, Elizabeth Weil, spoke to the audience about the importance of good customer service through social networks.

She cited Vodafone as a good example of a company responding quickly and directly to its customers – after a quick look at the @vodafoneuk Twitter feed I can see why. Vodafone has three staff members dedicated to answering your queries, all tweeting regularly in a personal, friendly tone with useful links and suggestions. As Elizabeth put it, ‘it’s like a live FAQ’.

While some, like Vodafone, are obviously leading the way in this area, many are still lagging behind. But if the stats are anything to go by, companies can’t afford to be complacent.

Provide personal service

Research by the Direct Marketing Association shows that 39% of us have shared information about brands on social networks in the past six months.

My recent post about Gap’s u-turn on its logo design is a good example of how social media can cause a stir about a brand. In that instance, Gap listened to its customers’ negative feedback and announced it was keeping the old logo after all.

But I’m talking about more than just taking notice of the big stuff. Social networking is a 24/7 activity. People have little gripes, problems and questions about companies at every hour of the day – and you can be sure that many of them will whine about them online.

Surely it pays to be where your customers are – to respond to their needs quickly and, in turn, offer them a personal service? You’d think so, but The Internet Advertising Bureau found that 7.7% of people have registered a complaint about a firm on a social network, and fewer than 40% of these had received a swift response.

Come on companies, where’s your common sense? Yes, you have to invest time and energy into social media, but get it up-and-running and it could actually be an easier way to provide customer service and generate positive coverage. After all, Vodafone has made it into this Conversation.

Clogboy says:
9 November 2010

At the start of this year, I got stuck in Aberdeen (UK) due to the ashcloud. After catching up on the airline’s website, I quickly realised it wasn’t them I should rely on as a source of information, but the local airport.
Aberdeen airport (Dyce) did have a good website, but they’re also active on Twitter and usually their news was a sign of things to come concerning my return flight. So while my complaints and questions were directed towards the Dutch royal airlines I got the best information by far from following the airport on Twitter.

The complaint/service department is usually a third party that receives payment based on interactions logged in their own purpose built software, which renders existing social networks useless for them. However, a service that is active on Twitter or Facebook and has a loyal community of well-informed followers can decrease the load on complaint- and service departments. In this day and age, you can practically troubleshoot your own problems and through social networks, other users or the service provider/OEM should be able to direct you in your search.

Helen says:
10 November 2010

I had a little grumble on Twitter yesterday evening, as I’d placed an order with Lands’ End clothing at the weekend and then last night discovered that I’d had an email from them with a free delivery code, that had gone into my spam folder for some reason. I wasn’t really expecting a response as much as just venting my annoyance, but this morning I had a tweet back from them saying that if I phoned the Customer Services they would ensure I received the free delivery. (I did – the person I spoke to wasn’t keen but agreed to do it on this occasion). Their people on Twitter then offered to find out an estimated delivery date for me which will is very useful. Can’t fault them, they responded really quickly to my original grumble and have gone beyond the call of duty in my opinion by offering the delivery information too.