When Traditional Comms are Down:

Customers Discover their Voice on Social Media 

The Hoffman Agency, London

Companies need to be careful with social media, especially when their traditional customer service channels, such as mail, fax, telephone and email, experience problems and delays. When customers cannot access a company representative, they increasingly tend to flock to social media. They quickly learn that, on the Internet, their voice is projected further than a letter or phone call allows, and their problems are addressed more quickly than what they’ve grown accustomed to via the traditional channels. But while this instant gratification is wonderful for customers, it can sometimes pose a challenge to companies.

The real danger is that, once customers have learned to use this technique for customer service issues, they will use it all the time. And what’s really troublesome for companies is that social media has fewer barriers and hurdles in place compared to traditional communication channels. Armed with the new-felt power of their voice, customers are likely to complain more often and about smaller things.

Addressing this phenomenon early-on is key to a successful long-term social media strategy. Companies need to make some calls on how to balance their social media channels and prevent them from becoming mere complaints showcases for the world to see.

Companies are facing ongoing cost pressures, and in most cases they won’t be able to simply increase staff numbers behind their traditional comms channels. Since any complaint taken online may affect future business, companies are becoming more pressed to balance spending between traditional customer support and addressing online rants that harm their reputation.

One strategy to counter the phenomenon of customers flocking to social media and not going through traditional channels is for companies to fully embrace social media themselves and let the customers do part of the legwork by helping themselves out with smaller questions.

For example, perhaps there is a form that customers need to access. While a company’s default course of action would usually be to ask for a direct message with the case number, the form can be uploaded to a temporary location, if it’s not already on the company’s website. The company can then link to it with a handy short-URL, and later this short-URL can be updated as the form finds its final home on the website. This way any customers seeing this response with the short-URL can help themselves instead of having to ask the social media team. Also the short-URL does not become void only because the form was uploaded in a rush and is later placed elsewhere. This approach allows the company to establish contingency, and customers are not thrown off by broken links. 

broken luggage

Photo of damaged suitcase posted to an airline’s Facebook page

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