Social Media: nightmare or gift for customer service?

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When we lived in the offline world 1.0, customer service was already a dangerous topic for companies – still a small one though. If you failed to meet customer expectations you risked to damage your company and product image but word-of-mouth was not at an adult stage.

With the rise of social media the risk of poor customer service quality increases drastically. And some of us already know of the benefit and costs that might arise. For those who don’t, take your time to read this post and try to become a change agent in the favor of customer service inside your company.

In our times of customer generated media, customer service will become the key element for a successful business. Especially when companies are taking into account that the customer rules the marketing communication process. The customer not only talks to peers, friends and relatives. With social media elements the customer becomes the ’silent‘ marketing and pr driver. Thus, the customer 2.0 turns the marketing communication process upside down and probably sometime in the near future will make customer service more important than marketing.

Let me tell you a story…
Some months ago, I bought a pocket camera. It showed a bug after 5 month of not even intense usage. The manufacturers customer service told me to send it to a reseller in order to get it done as quickly as possible. Three weeks later (!) the camera came back. Result: It did not work anymore. So, I addressed the online marketing manager who advised me to buy his product. He passed me on to customer service that send me an ‚urgent inquiry‘ mail voucher for the reseller. This urgent voucher did not perform as an urgent customer care reply – but as a nightmare. After another 3 weeks (!) I still had not heard back of my camera. Again asking the online marketing manager via a business network ended in an email from customer support, telling me ‚as of illness… and difficult product availability …lalala… we could not send the camera back quicker‘. The online marketing manager did not reply at all but clicked on my profile in the business network.

What do you think of that story? Take your time…
It definitely shows that this company does not know the rules of modern communication 2.0. Can companies apologize because they don’t have the resources to care about their customers? Or because they don’t have the right logistic that supports their resellers with service quantities? Definitely not – not even in the offline world 1.0. And sending an email through a third person is odd, is like having forgotten the value of a client, is like hiding behind the walls of customer service 1.0, right?

Companies need to start treating customer service as an investment rather than an expense if they want to see social media as a gift for customer service. With the rise of social media even more: A negative-minded customer is sometimes just a few words away from changing into a customer evangelist.

Seen form a superficial perspective, social media and customer service doesn’t make money in the beginning. In the long-run, we all know the power that it has in terms of word-of-mouth efficiency. This positively influences your image, your brands, your products, your sales, your customer loyalty, your employees and finally your share holders.

Social media as well as customer care is an investment in the future of communication. For this online marketing manager sites like eBay and still seem to be in the focus of the sales process. Customer service is an ’not very much loved‘ alien department somewhere under ground floor level. And even if this marketing manager and his pr manager have great contacts to editors of publishing houses that could help protect and build up their image, customers would be doubtful after having read such stories. Social media is changing customer service rules and the way companies must monitor their image in the market. Just think about what I could have said…

‚They paid attention to me, they heard me, they showed me that I matter.‘

What a success in terms of customer service for a company could that have been?

Spot On!
Social media will become the future customer service access point. Just take a look at a study in the US from end of last year showing the future of customer service and what clients want…

– Companies should use social networks to solve my problems (43%)
– Companies should solicit feedback on their products and services (41%)
– Companies should develop new ways for consumers to interact with their brand (37%)

Obviously, the customer 2.0 is the more uncomfortable customer for companies than in the offline world 1.0. But not if you invest properly in the modern communication process 2.0. Just imagine I had stated the company name in this post (as much as you will ask, this will not leave my word-of-mouth). Or if I had shared this story with the name on Twitter, Facebook, XING or LinkedIn? The reach that social media generates of some individuals 2.0 is massive and thinking about some of my followers, I do see loads of influential social medians with an even bigger reach – bigger than most of today’s well-known magazines. So, social media can become a nightmare. For those who see the options of the investment it will be a gift.

PS: The Bank of America already does combine social media and customer service with a Twitter Account.

About the survey… The 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study presents the findings of an online survey conducted September 11-12, 2008 by Opinion Research Corporation among 1,092 adults comprising 525 men and 567 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is ± 3%.

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10 Kommentare zu "Social Media: nightmare or gift for customer service?"

  1. Dan Waldron am 13.02.2009 09:16 

    Nice writing style. I look forward to reading more in the future.

  2. Dan Waldron am 13.02.2009 10:17 

    I finally decided to write a comment on your blog. I just wanted to say good job. I really enjoy reading your posts.

  3. freitags news flash -KW 7 | ethority weblog am 13.02.2009 17:14 

    […] Social Media – Segen oder Fluch für den Kundenservice >> […]

  4. Bookmarks vom 13-02-2009 — ErkenntnisWerk am 13.02.2009 21:30 

    […] Social Media: nightmare or gift for customer service? When we lived in the offline world 1.0, customer service was already a dangerous topic for companies – still a small one though. If you failed to meet customer expectations you risked to damage your company and product image but word-of-mouth was not at an adult stage. (Tags: 2.0 web media social) […]

  5. Anh am 13.02.2009 23:29 

    Social Media can be a nightmare to companies, but not if they embrace it. With bad customer experience speeding around the internet highway, companies must take the same highway to resolve such issues. Some companies have already done that using Twitter as a mean to reach out and help their customers or prospects. Companies that view the Social Media as just another marketing platform will lose to the companies that leverage it for customer service satisfaction.

  6. Bernd Eckenfels am 14.02.2009 01:46 

    One can summarize that article: „Get on the Cluetrain“ :)

  7. Ms Mel am 27.02.2009 15:12 

    Thank you! Finally someone who understand what social media engagement mean to business! Positive Customer experience Awesome!

  8. Christoph Salzig am 02.03.2009 13:45 

    Gleiche Wahrnehmung, anderer Fall:

  9. CMO study: budgets better than expected am 18.03.2009 00:33 

    […] as deep as possible how the customers thinks, don’t ‘owe’ the sovereignty on customer service and support issues, nor have they big influence on CRM, the survey […]

  10. Social media spend increases – but where to find resources? am 09.12.2009 00:04 

    […] On! Only 27% take the advantage of using Twitter as a customer service (and 25% as a customer feedback) tool for reacting to issues and inquiries. And when 31% see “tremendous opportunities” available in […]

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