Posted by: peterhact | April 18, 2010

Customer Service and Social Media

Customer service. What does that mean to you?

Does it mean that you get helped by a company to achieve an objective – buy something, get something fixed, a problem solved? What happens when you are on the internet, perhaps following a company on twitter, or learning about technology on whirlpool, when the company you are following or reading about pops up, and starts complaining about a client – who, you realize, is you.

If it is on a forum you participate on, you try hard to resist the urge to start throwing flames in their general direction. If you have your own blog, then they are flamed to the general internet community with examples of their incompetence, and you go for the kill. If they do it on Twitter, you can get your friends to confuse and destroy them.

To all the businesses out there:

If you participate in open discussions on the forums, blogs and via twitter, try to ensure that you look as you want your marketing team to see the company – clean and professional. Slinging mud, treating clients like idiots, having a joke at their expense, may win the argument, but it may be at the cost of your client.

A perfect example of a company using Twitter to provide customer service is Bigpond. The people who tweet for Bigpond use the same handle – @BigPondTeam – and they are professional, try to help people and spend all of their time being positive. If they cannot sort out the problem, they take it offline to a specially created site, so that the respondent from Bigpond knows exactly who you are. (you have to login with your twitter credentials)

They know that there is no place for personal behavior that leaves the client wishing that they had never engaged with that particular company in the first place.

This appears to be the sort of thing that other companies seem to forget – you make someone look bad, you are snide, you have a joke at the client’s expense, then the expense is yours. It is an expensive action to perform, and the damage can bring a perfectly solid company to its knees.

There is no place for sarcastic comments toward a client. There is no place in the Social media environment to belittle a client. If you do, you sink into a cycle that is very hard to get out of, partially through the perception of others towards you, but also from the me-too effect. Sure, you got the upper hand on the client. you told them. But the bad me-too effect is that every ex client or current client with an issue with you will come out of the woodwork. They won’t sing your praises, they will twist the knife. Forget your peers. They are keen for your business too. They will close ranks, but you will be left out in the open, as they close you out. They are keen for your business, they want it to be their business.

Finally, there is one person that needs to consider that they will be effected, long term. The internet is a public place. If I wanted to dig up a comment I made on a site, I can. If I go for a job, and the potential employer wants to know more about me, they can google me. If bad stuff pops up, belittling customers etc, I have to sell myself with a distinct disadvantage. It may be the difference between success and failure.

The global community of the internet and social media is just that. global. everybody. and the linkages between individuals makes for one hell of a dangerous place to make a mistake.

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