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Customer service issues through social media should be viewed in a positive light.

2011 January 3

For many companies an increase in sales as a result of the festive period can also mean a surge in customer service issues (CSIs) – especially when coincided with a snow dump! For those companies who have adopted social media many of these CSIs can be both potentially problematic and embarrassing as a result of the transparent nature of social channels. The difference between those companies that understand social media and those that don’t can easily be seen in their reaction to and handling of these situations.

CSIs vs. social communication
Social communication (whether it be through Facebook or another social media channel) by its very nature is an engagement in dialogue. Those brands that expect this to be 100% positive are dreaming and are failing to see the opportunities posed by ‘the tricky question’. I always look at feedback as the very essence on which a successful strategy can be based. Without this insight from your target community no learnings can be taken. Companies that have an audience base that are willing to give feedback/criticism in an open environment, such as social, are brands that have an engaged and passionate audience who have an expectation of the goods or services purchased; I would rather have this client base than one that merely moved to a competitor like a silent assassin!

There is a responsibly by brands and individuals who engage through comment or social gestures to follow up the conversation in order to close the loop. A willingness to enter into this debate should always be seen as a willingness to engage in transparent and open dialogue therefore giving the forum owner the opportunity to come back on any adverse comment or opinion and turn a negative into a positive.

One to one = one to many
While traditional customer service desks have the ability to take conversations ‘offline’ and answer each and every one individually they don’t allow for transparency or showcasing other CSIs that might be of relevance to others. Once brands move past the notion that CSIs on Facebook Pages are purely negative comments, towards seeing them as CSIs that would happen through other channels, the greater the likelihood that the interactions will have a positive impact on observing fans.

Strategy is key
Of course it takes time to see social media as part of a customer service (and other business) channel and it is not something that you can jump straight to, as only with insight will you be able to make a judgement call as to how your customers want to communicate with your brand online. But there does need to be a strategy that is allowed time to evolve. Through seeing and understanding that consumers are happy to use Facebook/Twitter etc as a channel for customer service more thought can be taken as to where and how you answer the queries. Is this something that you want to showcase on a brand page or dedicate to a page of its own; how does this fit into your internal make up and which teams will be looking after which queries (not to say that you can’t flag different comments to different team members)?

Time also needs to be taken into planning resource (social media is not free) around peaks, as it can be very detrimental not to have the right team in place to answer relevant queries, especially when the volume of visitors is high.

At Roost we not only look long term to make sure all these elements are taken into account but we also help companies adapt to the cultural changes needed to be adopted by brands.

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