In a recent article on Forbes.com, authors Mark Fidelman and Becky Carroll discuss the high cost paid by Southwest Airlines – cost in terms of customer perception as well as obvious costs in dollars – due to a website snafu resulting in lots of customer overcharges – and the part social media played in the entire affair. There are a number of lessons to be learned from the article How One Defective Social Media Campaign Spawned Millions in Overcharges, but one big message is about the positive impacts of effective and relevant (and timely) customer communications. Social media is a sword that cuts both ways, offering a platform for both positive, and not so positive, discussions and conversations.
Using social media for customer service has become just as, if not more beneficial than, having an army of agents in the contact center. This is especially true when a crisis hits a company. Gone are the days when a customer service issue was aired solely between a consumer and the company’s contact center (and maybe a few friends within earshot). When things go wrong, consumers take to a brand’s social media channels for several reasons. Forbes.com
Particularly when you factor in the viral nature of social media interactions, and the amazing speed with which ANY message can gain broad visibility, businesses should understand that all those “friends” can turn into an ugly mob pretty quickly if an effective communications strategy isn’t in place.
Whether or not an organization uses social media as one of their official customer service channels, customers will seek out all ways of communicating when they have an issue. How companies choose to respond on social media has a large impact on how quickly a crisis settles down.
But communication isn’t all that is required. Providing information on a solid course of action, and how revealed problems are being addressed to satisfy customer demand RIGHT NOW is the critical element. Communications and promises are nothing if they’re not backed up with action in real time. Actually, the best solution is to not have the problem in the first place, but sometimes you just don’t see it coming (see “unintended consequences“).
You know those car commercials on TV, where the sales person is telling the customer about how great the warranty on the vehicle is? Yeah – the one where the customer wants to know if they should buy a good car, or buy a car with a good warranty. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
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