Is Social Media a Customer Service Channel?

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

OK, ‘fess up. How many times have you tweeted in anger or frustration over a brand, complaining about a long wait time, defective product or other issue? It happens. And probably not nearly as often as you complain to your coworker or friend about your of-the-minute issue. But is social media just a place to vent, or should you expect a response from companies?

Many consumers take to Twitter or Facebook to give a play-by-play of their day, including gripes about “Brand X.” The good (and bad) side is that Brand X can easily see what they are saying on Twitter–though not as easily on Facebook, unless the customer takes the extra step to post to Brand X’s page as well as their own private profile.

While this allows brands greater insight into customer service and product issues, it can also magnify issues. For example, Brand X might have consistently shipped out their products a day later than promised, but until social media gave customers an outlet to complain on (without calling the dreaded 800-number), Brand X didn’t know how big the problem was. And while they are now given the listening tools to paint a clearer picture of customer satisfaction, what they do with it is up to them.

It’s a tough job either way. Brands that say social media is not a customer service channel are forced to ignore customers or spend all day telling people to call their 800 number instead of tweeting. Those that opt to utilize Facebook and Twitter for customer issues are faced with a myriad of challenges, including the timeliness of responses, privacy concerns, prioritizing issues and more.

There are countless ways to handle customer service on Twitter, and even the most conservative industries are starting to come around. But is it enough? In a world of 24/7 communication and various measures of online influence, consumers are demanding a higher level of service–and taking to Twitter when they don’t think it’s been delivered.

What do you think? Have you ever received customer service via social media? And do you like that as an option? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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