Using Social Media for Customer Service
What do you do when your flight is cancelled at an ungodly hour and the airline insists on rebooking you and your spouse on two separate flights? Or are you live streaming a basketball game you just couldn't miss and you suddenly can’t connect to the Internet? Or have you been waiting for hours in an examining gown to see your dermatologist? Or your favorite pizza stop that says it is open Sundays until 11, isn't?
Like millions of consumers around the globe, you’ll probably log on to Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, and complain to your friends, family, followers, and the world about the terrible service you are experiencing. You might even locate the company’s Twitter handle or Facebook page and complain directly. Will people there answer? How quickly? Will they actually help? And will you go back to social media and report that you are now a satisfied customer, or rant even more about their misguided response, or the complete lack thereof?
Companies today meet their customers on social media. Now that social networks are an essential part of the culture, using them for customer care has become a business necessity. That was the message from panelists at the recent Wharton Social Media Best Practices Conference session "The Real Value of Social Media for Customer Service."
This article features the three main topics discussed during the session, and that marketers and consumers should take note of:
Dennis Stoutenburgh, co-founder of Stratus Contact Solutions, recalled how a year ago, getting a social media response from a brand on a customer issue pleasantly surprised consumers. Now, we’re at the point where companies get criticized if they don’t respond to customer complaints.
Today, companies of all sizes have their own Twitter handles and, in some cases, a second handle dedicated solely to customer support. This is evident in most companies in the airline, banking, and credit card industries. According to panelists at the session, however, that’s only one step along the journey to effective social media customer service, which they also referred to as "customer care" or "social care".
Bianca Buckridee, Vice-president of social media operations for JPMorgan Chase, shared an advantage she sees in social care: customers can go to her company’s Twitter page and actually see the individual with whom they are talking. This, she feels, restores some of the familiarity and comfort that is lost in a phone conversation. They even have customers returning to the channel asking for specific customer care specialists, saying that that individual knows exactly what they’re going through.
Another advantage identified by Buckridee is having a customer service team that crosses its line of business. Customers can tweet one handle and get help for a number of things. Having a team of customer service representatives ensures that your customers’ inquiries are answered in real time.
Brian Mook, Assistant Vice-president of social media for Barclaycard US, described how his team prepared for the launch of the company Twitter care handle in the first quarter of 2013: by having an intensive customer listening campaign to identify pain points and trends during the first few months of the year.
American Airlines established its social media presence back in 2009 with an outside agency, but brought the process in-house in 2011. The airline company now has 17 employees dedicated to social customer service, four to brand engagement and one to social media measurement and reporting. The focus of American Airlines in the social space this year is closely aligned with the company’s massive brand transformation initiative. Katy Phillips, a senior analyst in social communications for AA, said what’s important to them is to go from being vigilant about protecting their brand reputation in the social space - which all should be doing anyway - to really building customer loyalty, continuing to create ‘wow’ moments for their customers.