social media customer serviceSocial media for customer service was inevitable.  And it seems that pretty much everyone agrees that social media is the new go-to platform for dealing with service failures.  Certainly, that’s where customers are going – so it just makes sense that businesses are there to deal with issues before they go viral.  But are we doing it right – or are we just trying to apply an old paradigm to a new format?

Consider this:

by the time someone feels compelled to tweet a problem or lay it out on Facebook, there’s a very good chance we already have failed them more than once. (eg.  first with the product, then with the front-line employee, then with the manager, etc).  They are going public because they feel powerless – like just another number – with nobody at any significant level within the organization listening.

So how do we respond?

With yet another contact center.  Is this really the answer?  Oh, sure, with some expanded authority, they might be able to resolve issues, but does the customer feel any less processed than before?  I wonder…

Time for Very Senior people to step up

I think we should scrap the call centres, and have tweets and posts answered by people from as high a level as we can muster.  THAT will tell customers that someone of importance is paying attention, which in turn will send the message to the customer that he is important to the company.  (I recall being profoundly abused by a car rental company in an airport a couple of years ago, and tweeting while I was there.  Within minutes I got a tweet back from a VP.  I was impressed – and have stayed with this company ever since.)

Why are companies opting for the mass contact-centre approach?  Because it’s the paradigm of process-focused people at the top, who are more focused on efficiency than experience.  I recall having a discussion with a senior VP of Customer Experience in Asia.  He said, “You can’t realistically expect senior executives to respond to every public complaint.  They would spend all day doing this!”  My response was, “Possibly.  But if that happened, I’ll bet they’d be pretty quick to deal with the root cause of the problems so they could get their time back.”

Maybe it’s time for a new paradigm.

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Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group of Companies, an international customer service training company

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