What happens when only 31% of social media complaints receive a response?  I began thinking about this question after @Richard_Gans and many others re-tweeted one of my posts.  We had a short online discussion about why this number was so small.  His exact words: “It’s crazy that the number is so low”.  Among other reasons, here’s why complaints registered via social media are falling through the cracks:

  • Tools – Many tools exist to express oneself via social media, but not many help companies hear.  Fewer still help create order from the chaos.  As a result, the signal to noise (S:N) ratio is too high.  Essentially today’s social media clutters the airwaves and few tools address the problem.  One company helping companies filter through the noise to crack the code is SocialDynamx.
  • Processes – When (not if) someone in the Twittersphere complains about your company’s service, chances are your team isn’t prepared to handle the issue.  Traditional service models require a certain baseline of information from which to start… your name, the product, the issue, etc.  The threshold for a social media rant (“you stink”) is much lower so companies must be prepared to reach out for more information.  Companies must also consider the “temperature” of a complaint when responding.  A single tweet may deserve a response but it may not be needed immediately.  A single tweet that goes viral requires serious damage control before it erodes brand loyalty.
  • IdentityWho is complaining?  And to whom should I complain?  Many people have different social personae… one for work, one for play, etc.  Add to that branding issues for major companies and it gets difficult to determine where the complaint should go.  For example, should I direct my complaint to the parent company or the subsidiary?  (In a recent case, I complained to @HolidayInn.  The issue got picked up by the parent company @IHGCare and promptly fell through the cracks.)

Are any of these reasons why social media can’t be used for customer service?  Not really.  But the obstacles are great.  The pivot point is that without the right tools and processes in place, using social media to respond to customer complaints is more likely to frustrate and anger than satisfy, let alone drive loyalty.

The 69% of customers whose social media complaints got NO answer agree with me.  And chances are that many of the 31% who did get responses were underwhelmed by the effort/results.  What are you doing to make social media a tool to enhance customer experience?

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