One of the benefits of social media that marketers love to highlight is that you can respond almost instantaneously to complaints and queries from your customers. You don't even need to address the concern right there and then, you simply need to assure your customer that you hear them and that you are looking into it, and that she will hear from you soon, and you thank her for the valuable feedback because we value what she has to say. And that is a benefit that the customer enjoys, right? Instant response.
But is this really of any value to your customer? Is your assurance anything more than a virtual salve that temporarily soothes the customer's anxieties? I would think so, because after all has been said and done, the customer is still holding the bag carrying the same problem that she has come to you with the hope of getting it resolved. There is very little value, then, to a quick response, if a resolution is not in sight.
Keep in mind that among the good things we would like to harvest from our social media investment is the boost that our reputation and credibility get when we consistently deliver high quality information that helps them take a specific action, preferably purchasing your product or availing of your service.
Conversely, the reputation we carefully and painstakingly built could take a significant hit as a result of a few unresolved concerns that customers have brought to our attention. What makes the problem a little trickier is that the same ease that social media provides us in communicating with people also can work against us when these same people start bombarding us with negative feedback.
The assurance generated by the quick response, in my opinion, creates a very dangerous expectation on the part of the customer that the concern will be addressed and resolved quickly. If it doesn't get resolved, the expectation is not met, and your reputation takes a hit.
This is not to say that a quick response to the customer complaint or concern does not do any good. It just needs to be able to temper expectations and communicate to the customer that you are on it and when she can expect a definitive resolution. This is your opportunity to make it clear to your customer that:
You respond to standard customer issues within X days or Y hours;
If the issue is escalated, it would take X days or Y hours; and
If the issue is urgent or critical, you respond within the hour (or whatever time it takes for you to respond to emergency situations).
Responding is quite different from resolving the issue. Perhaps you can explain that the process involves Departments A, B and C, and that it usually takes X days or Y hours to come up with options to resolve the issue.
You may also opt to insert a disclaimer that you are keeping track of lots of other similar cases, as well as other customer concerns and issues, and sometimes things fall through the cracks.
Whatever the case, by reminding the customer of your processes and limitations, you set a more realistic expectation for the customer and mitigate any threats an unrealistic expectation poses to your credibility.
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