Social Media Impacts Customer Service

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    Does the evolution of tech and communication mean our methods must drastically change?

    Social media has already changed how we do customer service, and the rise of prominent posters, or powerful groups (who hasn’t heard of the mommy bloggers?) continues to affect the ways we handle issues.

    With infamous moves ranging from the sensational, like famed Morton’s Steakhouse having a dinner hand-delivered to a Twitter celeb at the airport after he posted a joking Tweet from in-flight, to the incredibly weak, such as when Pizza Hut ignored one customer’s complaint to the point where he plastered pictures of the bloodied bandage he had allegedly found in his pizza all over the Web.

    In a post on his blog, Shatterbox, crisis communications expert Jay Pinkert gave this list of “mildly facetious” questions for companies to consider when handling customer service:

    1. Is it now the responsibility of front line customer service reps at large consumer goods companies to escalate every call from someone claiming to have a million Twitter followers? Is that a “red flag,” automatic escalation, or do they have to verify it first? Or is that up to the first line supervisor? Second line?
    2. What’s the cutoff for special treatment/escalations? 1 million followers? Ranges (e.g. 250,000-499,999 followers gets a free replacement, 500,000+ gets a freebie plus donation to the charity of their choice)?
    3. If customer service reps are now expected to have the skills of online community managers, are they being trained enough? Paid enough?
    4. Should IT departments incorporate a social media ranking look-up as a desktop app for customer-facing personnel?
    5. Is not responding to/escalating all Twitter complaints now considered poor customer service?

    Honestly, we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see an integrated tool in the near future that searches for and displays a customer’s potential influence level while they’re on the line with customer service.

    While every customer has a right to expect timely and helpful service, extending yourself further to improve your reputation where you know it will have an impact is just smart business.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]