Customer Service is the Problem, Not Social Media

Many people, this writer included, fall into the camp of believers that think customer service is one of, if not possibly the most crucial parts of every business. Call me old fashioned, but I still see the value in customer service. I’m actually quite obsessed with it. Why? Because I’m a customer to many companies and like anyone else who has ever been a customer at some point in their life, I can quickly differentiate between good customer service, poor customer service, and absolutely outstanding customer service. It’s one of those things that just doesn’t hide very well.

Social media is either a blessing or a curse in that it exposes gigantic flaws in an organizations commitment or lack thereof when it comes to genuinely serving customers. A large number of us have fallen victim to the myth that social media has been a magic bullet of sorts that has made businesses friendlier, more trustworthy, and customer oriented.

This, I’m sad to say, is a gigantic lie.

The one thing social media has done is that it has made everything much much much more transparent. The glass is clearer than ever these days and customers are gaining uncharted glimpses into the personality and culture of the businesses that they give their money and time to.

This is an incredible advantage for some, but a liability and big problem for most. If social media gives consumers an unprecedented opportunity to see a business for what it truly is, what happens when consumers don’t like what they see? What happens when a business puts customer service last on their list of priorities?

When a customer has a problem and decides to pick up the phone to dial a 1-800 number, it’s natural and expected to receive at least some notion of help on the other line. If the customer is fortunate and doesn’t get stuck with an automated answering system or put on hold for 20 minutes, he or she will get an opportunity to voice their problem and interact with a real flesh and blood human being, maybe even a manager if the problem is severe enough. Large organizations spend a lot resources refining this archaic complaint system in hopes of minimizing it down to as little of an expense as possible. Small businesses, solo entrepreneurs included, can act in the exact same way when they knowingly choose to put off or completely ignore voicemails or emails from customers.

Social media is dangerous, and possibly fatal, to the businesses that don’t care or don’t care enough. Some of the problem is still ignorance in that a large number of mid to small sized businesses are still in the dark when it comes to social media, or that it’s nothing more to them than a irregularly updated Facebook page. This group is shrinking more and more all the time and within the next couple years it’s very possible to that these late adopters will start to become a insignificant chunk of the pie that makes up all businesses. No this message here today is in reference to those who “get” social media, but yet still aren’t answering the call.

If someone comments on the company blog with a question and doesn’t receive a response it’s a customer service fail. If someone writes a blog post mentioning the company and doesn’t receive a response it’s a customer service fail, or what I’d call a customer recognition fail. The same can be said for Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, or any other social network. If customers are present, the business should be there listening and waiting to respond.

Social media doesn’t create the problem of a lack of customer service, it just exposes it and puts it out in the open, often for all to see. Sometimes it’s not the social media strategy that’s broken, it’s that there’s been a dangerous lack of customer service within the entire culture of the company that’s just now rising up to the surface. Trying to get aligned with social media before getting right with customer service is foolish. It’s kind of like trying to run before learning how to walk; it’s just not going to work.

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