Using social media for customer services

I’ve been having problems with Sky broadband for years but only recently decided to switch providers. Not being familiar with the moving process I gave Sky a call and was really surprised by the recorded intro message…

It was a Sunday, around noon. The recorded message said something like “We may not be able to help you on the phone today but our web and social media teams are here for you” (forgive me Sky if I’ve mis-quoted you).

My immediate thought went to the irony of the situation. I wouldn’t have been ringing Sky if my broadband worked and I could contact their web or social teams online.

This got me thinking about how Sky has changed it’s customer service model. It has prioritised online and social channels over traditional contact routes. And to be fair, this shift seems to be working. I had a timely, positive interaction with their Help team on Twitter just a few weeks ago.

But there are many businesses that are dipping a toe into social media, who aren’t willing to adapt their processes and who insist that if you wish to complain you should do so via their ‘accepted’ channels.

For example one business advises customers on their website, that they’ll get “the best level of service” if they report repairs or other queries by phone, letter, email, fax or face to face.

So in essence, Twitter in this case, is an okay customer communications channel, but only if the communication is about anything other than customer services. 

Historically an excuse for this could have been a lack of integration between social media platforms and business software systems meaning ‘unofficial’ contact couldn’t be recorded and therefore reported on, but I’m not sure this is a valid excuse today.

I guess another reason for this is the fear around letting customer service teams loose on social media. Often, social feeds are still largely administered by Communications or Marketing teams. Sky gets it right by putting their technical team in front of the customer, even in such a public place as Twitter. Customer expectations have shifted- we expect to be able to have conversations with brands in the social space and get the right answer at the right time, from the right member of staff.

So what I’m saying is, if you’re going to bother using Twitter or other social media to communicate with customers, make sure you’ve got the processes in place and systems support, to meet expectations, otherwise you should probably re-think whether it’s worth getting into.

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