Why email beats social media for customer service

Kelly  | 

We’ve known it for a while but now it’s official: most people are not keen on social media customer service. Done right, email still is the best way of responding to customer queries.A new survey of the over-25s shows that only 2% of respondents prefer to use social media to get help. And these are not people who haven’t given it a go yet; 67% of those surveyed had tried and tested the method, and were unimpressed. Those of us who are focused on providing the best possible service have only ever tried to give the customers what they wanted. When everybody was telling us that we needed to use social media, we made the effort. Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram – you name it, we gave it a go. So where to now?

Email: what customers want

We don’t suggest for a moment that you give up helping people on social media. Actually quite the opposite – what you need to do is ramp up your social media game to ensure that you’re not one of the companies who are putting willing users off social media custserv altogether.

I know just how it happens. Earlier this year I had a question for UK clothing company Boden, who pride themselves on their customer service – and rightly so, I have to say, having dealt with them via email. They are fast, friendly, and solution-focused. When I tried to interact with them on Facebook, though, I was sorely disappointed.

I commented on one of their posts with a question about an item featured. The post was a few days old, so when I didn’t receive a reply I thought perhaps it had just been overlooked. I tried again, repeating my question. Crickets. So what happened? Based on my (positive) experiences with the company, I think they just never saw my message.

I can tell that they don’t use Casengo’s customer service software, which would have sent my comment right to the top of their team inbox ready for them to deal with. Instead, I think it just got lost in their attempts to handle Facebook from the Facebook interface, one of many hundreds of comments they have to deal with each week. Thanks to the stellar service I’ve received from Boden in the past, I don’t hold it against them – but they did lose a sale. And I won’t try to Facebook with them again.

Use email, use email, and did we say – use email?

As a company staffed with internet junkies, we have more than our fair share of experience with online communication. When it’s done right, email has to be the best way of handling customer service.

The benefits:
• You have as much space to say as little or as much as you need to; no need to stop at 140 characters.
• It’s (more or less) private, government hacking scandals aside – in any case, it’s not being broadcast to anyone who’s ever heard of you (and even more people who haven’t).
• It is convenient for both sender and receiver. The sender can reach out at a time that suits them (no phone line opening hours to fit in with, and no being put on hold), and the recipient can respond at a convenient moment. No picking up the phone in the middle of lunch. No difficulty understanding each other’s accents. No premium phone lines.
• If you need to include attachments – photographic proof of a damaged item, say, or instructions for use – it’s easily done.
• And with hybrid chat, it can go from an email exchange to a live chat session whenever it suits! When it comes to choosing the best customer service medium, it’s important to keep one thing in mind: the customer is still always right.

Although email is almost always the best option for getting to the bottom of an issue, not all customers want to do things via email. And that’s ok. The best channel for customer service is still the one they prefer, not the one that is the one that you think they should prefer. If they tweet you, you tweet back. Facebook comments? Better be right there. And dare we say it, even the occasional customer who prefers to pick up the phone? You’re gonna chat to them in your brightest and cheeriest phone voice. Because whether they want email, Facebook, or perhaps even carrier pigeon, they’re the ones who are keeping you in business.