Low cost, quick to market and a platform for engagement: of all the ways social media has impacted the way we do business, social support is perhaps the most direct and accepted business use. But social support has a flip side — for many brands it’s become a way to address the connected customer while legacy support systems, long wait times and product defects go unresolved — social support has become a crutch.
I’ve been there before myself, several times. Between acquisitions, periods of rapid growth, outsourcing of departments and a myriad of other challenges, we saw social support as the way to quickly address a bad stigma about the brand’s service, long queue times and public critique over support. But while social support provided an apparent short term fix, the truth was we were making a long term mistake and conditioning our customers to turn to the wrong venue, a very public venue, to solve something which they asked us to, and we should have been able to, solve elsewhere.
When social support is “better”, that obviously means everything else is worse
Connected as consumers are, not everyone starts with twitter or Facebook and just as you don’t want to force a customer to pick email over the phone or the phone over an in store rep, forcing a customer to use a social channel, whether it’s directed or just the only place they find an answer in a timely manner, starts the whole conversation off on a negative foot.
At the same time you can bet that by the time they show up on your social support channel, they’ve already ranted about you… They’re coming in hot and the solution is no longer to give them a great experience, it’s to make up for a bad one.
Tainted, an engagement channel becomes a support stop
Every reply is an @ that shows up when someone loads your twitter account. Every Facebook, Blog or Foursquare comment remains front and center for the world to see hundreds, thousands of times in a single day. When you have a branded channel taking a barrage of help questions, when team leads or executives are becoming primary contact points, you’ve got a major miss that dilutes your ability to use social to engage, promote and build with your customers.
Customer service is marketing these days and a failure to any one offering leads to rants, complaints and a very public problem that is easily avoided by taking the same investment approach you’ve put into social support and spreading the ‘love’ around.
An offline customer is just as potent as an online
Often social support programs deliver higher service and better “gives” as company perceive that the visibility warrants a serious fix. While customers sure appreciate the extra gives, it’s a mistake to think that the most potent voice is the one coming to twitter. After all, what story is really going to get passed around… The airport customer bounced around by the front desk and phone support while stranded at the airport or the guy tweeting. Anyone has the potential to take a negative viral and everyone shares bad experiences. Channel is not the qualifier.
Adding to this, customers are increasingly connected so if you let a policy, or five, slip on Facebook posts, you can bet people will circumvent other channels and go right to you there… Good for your stats, bad for the business (or a potential flag that those policies need to evolve quick). Don’t be gamed.
Build great support with a social option
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use social for support — social can be a great support system but it has to be a preference channel and a part of a larger, working system where the customer can have a good experience via phone, email or in store as well. and it has to be done right as an opportunity for those who chose to use it.
Ideas like individual support reps help avoid flooding your channels with support mentions; peer to peer communities allow for scale while bringing credibility to concerns over product or quality; multi channel support crm makes a continuous, and highly personal experience but most of all, the customer expects the same great response in any other channel.