Social customer service: the one factor that companies overlook

Kelly  | 

Social media is not as fluffy-muffy as it might appear to the untrained eye. It'sserious business, if you do it right. But if you do it wrong, social media will cost you: poor customer experiences online are estimated at 80 billion dollars - those are the yearly losses American enterprises suffer.

Check out these stats:

So let's take a look at a couple of tweets. This guy obviously has a big problem with British Airways:

The rest of the rant went like this:

Makes your skin crawl, doesn't it? Thankfully, more and more companies understand that customer service is one of the greatest uses of social media. Twitter, Facebook and the like form a priceless opportunity to win hearts and minds. However, even the biggest, most successful companies are known for the occasional PR disaster on social media.

It seems that instead of sticking to the basics - like being friendly and professional - some companies treat social media communication like a crazy space technology that deserves a totally different approach than other channels. Some business tweets are too dry, formal, almost robotic. Other companies are too cool for school and joke around inappropriately.

Take KLM, the Dutch airlinerenowned for its fantastic social customer service. Usually, that is - except during the World Cup, when a tactless KLM Twitter representative infuriated Mexican soccer fans (and the rest of the world, really) with a dumb, dumb tweet. Within minutes of the Dutch 2-1 victory, KLM tweeted this:

Yeah, we bet someone got fired over that…The tweet got shared like crazy before it was removed, and KLM was cursed many times over:

So what is it that KLM - and many other companies - forgot here? They missed the part about social media being all about one single concept:people.Social media is people talking to people. Your tweets are being read by real people, with real feelings.
People want to talk to people.So show your customers you understand them, care about them, are ready to help them out - from human being to human being. Show empathy, and even treat them like friends. Acknowledge their dissatisfaction when something goes wrong.

Another example. Say you deliver food, and the food arrives completely wet and inedible. This is a good way to react:

Another Twitter conversation about a crappy food delivery:

Same idea, but no food involved:

And a couple of helpful airline examples (no amigos involved)...

Basically, “social media” is a social medium to reach and serve your customers, just like phone and email. There is no hype about it, it’s not a fad or a silly trend. The not-so-big-secret to doing it right is keeping it personal. No one likes getting robotic or generic answers from ‘companies’. Companies are not interesting, engaging or helpful. Sara, Bob or Peter are.

When it boils down to it, social media is an additional tool to get closer to your customers, solve their problems and strengthen relationships. With the right attitude, social media can help you to keep your customers happy. And happy customers, in turn, will be spreading the word about how great it is doing business with you.