You Need More Than Just Social Media to Have Great Customer Service

By Mallorie Rosenbluth Around here, we typically complain about brands that aren't living up to their social media potential, and praise those that do an amazing job in the space. Sometimes brands let us down in social media, but if we love their product or service, we let it slip (and plot ways to get their attention so we can offer up some guidance). But what about when social media outperforms the product or service you experience as a customer? Does a great social media presence make up for a lousy in-store or human experience? Can you forgive your favorite or most-used brands for not solving your problem (or really doing anything to fix a situation) if the community manager who works on the brand does an outstanding job engaging with you? Does saying "I'm sorry" on social media count if the brand doesn't ever put its money where its mouth is? I say no. And I've compiled several examples from Likeable employees of times when their favorite brands haven't come through after being super responsive and engaging on social media. 

1. The first example I'll provide is my own, and it happened fairly recently. I stop at Pret A Manger every morning for an iced coffee and yogurt. I consider it $6.73 well spent because, to me, the coffee is fantastic and there are never lines (unlike some other mermaid-logo'd places). That, and it's halfway between the subway and the office, so it's uber convenient to boot. Some days, I even go back and get my lunch there. You could say I'm a super fan of Pret. Earlier this summer, I stopped in to get my coffee. After adding soy milk and sweetener, I walked out and took my first sip and got a huge mouthful of coffee grinds. Blech! Being a social media maniac, I took to Twitter where this pleasant (and prompt) exchange took place:

Pret1 Pret2





Awesome job, community managers! I DM'ed my email and someone from Customer Relations got back to me asking for details about the experience (location, etc.) and offered me a free breakfast. Wow! Awesome! I responded and was met with radio silence. I'm still waiting for that breakfast, Pret, almost two months later. My email went unanswered and the situation was never made right. The social media team (both overseas and in the U.S.) did an incredible job of capturing my tweet, responding to me, getting my information to take it off Twitter for a solve, and then the Customer Relations representative let it fall. I now get my breakfast elsewhere.

Let's do some quick math together, Pret. I spend a minimum of $33.65 a week at your location. With vacation and other travel, let's say I'm there about 42 weeks a year. You just lost $1,413.30. Maybe not a ton of money to a big company like you, but it's money you should invest to ensure that your corporate and store customer service teams perform as well as your social teams do. 

2. Can we ever stop complaining about banks? I think it's the nature of business that people find reasons to be vocal about their disappointment with banks. But when it comes to social media, providing exceptional customer service is an easy way to do right by your customers. Count the small victories. But when you can't follow through and provide the right answers or fixes, why even bother being on social media?

I'll elaborate. An account manager at Likeable Media was having issues with his bank's website and reached out via Twitter. The response was prompt, and they told him to send an email to a support address (this is pretty standard, so no problems there). The email response directed the employee to call the bank. So he did.  The customer service representative was completely unable to solve the problem. But what's worst is this: He had to explain his problem three different times and to three different people. Your customer service representatives -- whether they're on email support, social media, or phones -- should be speaking with one another and using systems that allow them to make your customers' lives easier and limit the frustration that arises from each situation. One of the benefits of social media use for a company with a high volume of customer service issues is that it can reduce the amount of calls or time of calls in the call center. If you're making customers go through several channels and repeat themselves, you're wasting time -- and money.

3. This last one might be the worst yet. A community manager at Likeable recently bought a dresser for his apartment. Part of the furniture was damaged, so he called the customer service line and proceeded to be placed on hold for an hour. Once he got through to someone, they arranged for a new item to be delivered later that week. However, when the delivery date and time came around, no dresser was to be found. A few more dead-end calls took place before heading to Twitter to try to get a resolution (we know that sometimes a public complaint can get escalated and resolved faster than a call to the call center can). The company did a phenomenal job on social media and responded lightning fast to the complaint, gathered the order information, and put him in touch with the store. However, once the store got involved, it turned into a nightmare. The issue is currently being handled between the store and the credit card company after he disputed the charge for never receiving a replacement piece of furniture that was paid for. This issue could easily be resolved if there are appropriate checks and balances for ensuring that issues that are brought up on social media are resolved at the store level. Brands should be tracking their customers' experiences through to resolution. By doing so, you can measure effectiveness of your teams and track the future spending habits and lifetime value of customers who seek help via social media. Instead, the social team simply passed this customer off to the store and allowed it to be someone else's problem.

While it's critical in this day and age to have a strong and responsive social media team, it's just as important to make sure that they are not the exception to the rest of the customer service experience with your organization. All online channels (not just social media) need to work in conjunction with the offline channels.

Have you or someone you know had a similarly great social media experience and then were let down by the off-line follow-ups? Tell us what happened in the comments below.