Skip the Social Media Fast Track – It’s Bad for Business

Joey Sargent
Joellyn 'Joey' Sargent President, Claravon Consulting Group

Posted on October 18th 2012

Skip the Social Media Fast Track – It’s Bad for Business

Is your company offering customers a fast track through social media? Can customers who complain via Twitter or other online channels get better, faster service than those who wait in the phone queue?

Stop it.

Shouldn’t you treat all your customers the same way?

Listening to Social Feedback

Business in general does a terrible job of listening to social feedback. According to Satmatrix, 55% of companies ignore customers who provide feedback via social media. In fact, that’s why I challenge companies to take the “Twitter Test” to see how they are performing in this area.

Some companies get it and are working hard to integrate social channels into their support systems. Suzanne Kapner wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal article about Citibank’s efforts to improve response to customer issues raised through social media.

Citi is doing a wonderful job of responding to customers through Twitter, with 30 customer service staffers trained specifically to handle social media requests. The result of their efforts: a recent tweet from an unhappy customer generated an immediate response from @askCiti  reading ”Send us your phone number and we’ll call you right now.”

The quick response is great news for Citi customers who are active on social media and know about the fast track. Unfortunately, at the same time that tweet generating an immediate response, call center queues were running 40 minutes or more.

Kapner points out that service requests through “social media are still a tiny category for Citigroup, representing less than 1% of all customer inquiries.” So the question arises: are the 1% who use social media more important than the 99% who don’t?

Spotty Service Speaks Volumes

Citi is not alone in an inconsistent response to customer. When I spoke at a recent conference, audience members shared experiences in which companies ignored their complaints or comments via social media.

Even worse, some companies acknowledged customer concerns raised through twitter, shifted them to email, and then dropped the ball, never to be heard from again.

The larger the company, the more difficult it becomes to orchestrate a unified approach to customer issues  It’s hard  to coordinate multiple touch points and communications channels when you have a variety of support teams and  diverse market segments. There are lots of layers of management, logistic issues and turf wars to contend with.

While this is operational reality, size is no excuse. No matter how large or small your company is, your business would not exist without customers. They should be treated with respect and consideration whether they address your company through email, phone, live chat or social media.

Watch What You’re Saying

Many businesses overlook the fact that social media is a dialogue, not a broadcast channel. Your communications and interactions transmit both overt messages and subtle signals about how you see your community.

What kind of message is expressed when your company can’t manage to treat customers equally, regardless of channel? It’s disingenuous to claim all your customers are important and then treat some of them as inconsequential merely because they called you instead of tweeting.

Giving a select few a fast track through social media is just a bad as ignoring their requests. With the fast track approach you run the risk of appearing insincere and damaging your brand reputation, while not responding at all simply says you’re behind the curve.

The danger of a fast track for social media savvy customers is that it can send the wrong message. You might think you’re showing how well you’ve incorporated social media into your business, but the real message could be , “We know the social media community has a huge voice, and we want to look good where it counts.

Make Customer Relationships a Priority

If all this makes you feel like you can’t win either way, take a step back and focus on the basics. Make customer relationships a priority, regardless of channel. If your organization values these connections and treats customers as people, not numbers, you’ll quickly shift your thinking.

People approach your business in all kinds of ways. They may send a tweet while they’re out and about, then call when they get home. A question might come through online chat, and email message or a support forum. The person behind the request is one and the same.

Approach these interactions as opportunities to build a relationship with someone who may become a long term or repeat customer, or a source of ongoing referrals and positive word of mouth. Work to integrate your support channels so that every touch point supports this relationship.

Solid relationships create compelling brands and growing businesses.

Joey Sargent

Joellyn 'Joey' Sargent

President, Claravon Consulting Group

As founder and president of Claravon Consulting Group, Joellyn ‘Joey’ Sargent provides the clarity, vision and insight that leaders need to create powerful momentum for growth. Her fresh perspectives and no-nonsense advice help executives, entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders connect corporate strategy, organizational performance and customer experience, delivering breakthrough results with Maximum Market Impact.  

Joey holds an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has worked with companies from startups to the Fortune 500, including UPS and BellSouth (now AT&T). She is a popular speaker and is regularly quoted in the media on strategy, leadership and branding. For more information, visit or call 678.823.8228. Find Joey on Google+.

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