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Do social responses always need a second pair of eyes?

By Liz O'Brien on Jun 2, 2014 5:01:00 AM

Corporate social customer service blunders are becoming all too common, with major brands such as United Airlines and Pizza Express having 'mishaps' in the last few weeks alone. ASOS, a UK e-commerce company, became the latest to join this ever-growing list. Last week a customer tweeted requesting that they use a more 'manly' model for their campaigns. An agent at ASOS responded in a way that lead to a social backlash from the online community, including Jodie Marsh–a UK TV personalitywho they referenced directly in the tweet.

The interchange started when @MD_LDNM (the tweet and account have been deleted) tweeted directly at ASOS:

"Would you mind employing a model who's built like a man so anyone who actually lifts can buy clothes that fit from you?"

ASOS responded with a tweet picturing Marsh at a body-building competition:


Marsh, for obvious reasons was outraged, responding with:


ASOS then quickly deleted the offending tweet and apologised to Jodie, tweeting: "@JodieMarsh you're right, we should never have tweeted that. We never meant to hurt your feelings and we're really sorry." But Jodie-who is an anti-bullying campaigner-labelled the apology as "lame", accusing ASOS of only apologising because so many people were threatening to boycott the company.

ASOS has a responsibility to be championing the fight against those who victimise people based on their appearance, however their sent tweet contradicts this message. And with NSPCC reporting that 38% of young people have been affected by cyber-bullying, social media channels have become a place where faceless aggressors are able to target victims with ease and usually without recrimination. The problem with how women are presented and represented in the fashion industry is a well-documented issue; as a reputable fashion retailer, ASOS have a responsibility to promote a healthy body image throughout all of their campaigns and messaging.  
But is this the tone of voice agreed by the ASOS team? Or more likely a lone agent making the judgment call and, in this case, getting it wrong?

The agent responding to the tweet was clearly trying to be humorous, but completely missed the mark. Any brand message that is going to be viewed by the public needs to be considered for any possible offensive meaning. Social media gives companies the opportunity to create a brand personality. However, it is essential to clarify and communicate with agents and managers alike where the line is and when, if ever, it’s acceptable to cross it.

Getting it right

Creating a social customer service playbook allows companies to outline what’s expected of their employes over social. Setting out;

  • Tone of voice - How formal is your tone? Are there any topics agents cannot discuss, i.e. religion, race, competitors?
  • Escalation procedures - At what point in a conversation do you expect agents to escalate issues to either managers or support staff? Do they ever divert away from social channels to defuse a situation?
  • Go-to resources - Where can they find the agreed responses for sensitive issues? Where are contacts listed for different business areas?
  • Team focus and agent objectives - Team service level agreements, average handling time, customer satisfaction, number of responses per hour etc. 

By communicating your expectations you will instill the brand identity, as well as empower agents to show their own personality, keeping the brand always in mind in social conversations. However, if an agent decides to go it alone, a platform with appropriate workflow measures, can be the saviour of a brand’s online reputation. An approval workflow enables team leaders, managers or peers to assess each response before publishing, to ensure that nothing goes out that may damage the brand’s reputation. 

Conversocial’s approval workflow allows a brand to have a second pair of eyes on the messages that will be sent to their customers. Also allowing companies to give detailed feedback on responses when they don’t quite hit the mark--a crucial step in agent development. Doing this will create a confidence in your agents that in turn, directly reduces the risk of such blunders. Tracking missed criteria can also form part of the agent’s evaluation criteria.

ASOS could have avoided this situation if they had an approval workflow system in place. It does not prevent errors in judgement, but it does encourage people to give each interaction a second thought. 

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