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A Plaster Over a Gunshot Wound

Joshua March
By Joshua March on Oct 9, 2011 4:31:00 PM

OR: Why you shouldn't just tell people complaining in Facebook & Twitter to email you. 

People being asked to email issues on the Kohl's Facebook Page

As the volume of customer service interactions through Facebook and Twitter increase, many companies have struggled with how to respond. The public nature of complaints - and company responses - make many organizations hesitant to make the jump to fully open customer service discussions. In an attempt to do something, many companies have resorted to asking customers to email them whenever they get a question or complaint through social media. This is completely the wrong approach - what we call trying to plaster over a gunshot wound. Our research has found that this makes customers more angry and upset, and creates a negative perception of the brands Facebook page or Twitter account. 

Many customers resort to complaining on Facebook or Twitter (and sometimes even both) because they've had a poor customer service experience in another channel (such as in-store, phone - or email). In this case, asking them to email again is likely to generate further negative comments, and make your customer even more upset. They're speaking to you already - why force them to repeat it elsewhere before you answer?

Even worse, if the customer does email, and you resolve it well - this is now hidden to the world. Whereas answering in Facebook is likely to result in a 'thank you!' type comment, which goes to the (now happy) customer's friends, and shows the world and your other customers your good customer service, taking it into email means this public resolution won't happen, and all people see is the negative side of it. 

Of course, you can't ask customers for their private data such as address or telephone number - but we work for a large number of retail and ecommerce customers, and in almost all cases there is no problem asking for an order number in public. This gives no personally identifiable information, but allows you to match it against their name, fix the issue and respond - all in public, in the channel which your customer has opted to speak to you. 

The companies we work with who are doing this best (and generating the most positive engagement in their Facebook pages and Twitter account) are the ones who commit to resolving issues and responding directly through Facebook and Twitter. By resolving in-line, cutomers show their thanks publicly, and resolved issues and positive customer service is shown the to world. Over time, the increase in public positive engagement for companies who do this right, and resulting decreased call volumes (recent Clickfox research showed that 40% of unresolved complaints through social media resulted in phone calls) will drive real competitive advantage. 

“We found that when our fans posted customer service enquiries on our social media channels, requesting ticket reference numbers (where possible) rather than asking customers to email our support team, resulted in faster resolutions and happier customers. Most of our fans are looking for a quick and efficient response and we try to act as an informal go-between for customer service and social media to rectify any enquiries as positively as possible”

Rebecca O'Sullivan, Social Media Manager Manager, Groupon UK & IE

If you'd like to find out more how Conversocial can help you manage customer service through Facebook and Twitter, get in touch.

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