Posted May 3, 2012 6:16 am by with 0 comments

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There’s nothing like the spirit of competition to make a company jump on a new bandwagon. This time around it’s social media as a customer service channel.

Today we’re looking at the results of a survey by two companies, thinkJar and Sword Ciboodle. First off, we must stop to appreciate how totally cool those names are. Doesn’t everyone want to work for a company named Sword Ciboodle? Amazing.

Okay, now that I’m done fawning, let’s get to the facts. The study is called We Are Social: The State of Social Customer Service and the main takeaway is that companies are diving into social customer service before they know how deep the pool is or if they even know how to swim.

Look at the question results on the right. An overwhelming number of companies decided to go social because customers asked for it and because their competitors do it. The second part I believe, the first part boggles my mind.

I do business with a lot of online companies and never once have I thought, wow, if only I could get my customer service question answered by Twitter! Quite the opposite in fact. I’ve dealt with several companies who only seem to respond to Twitter or Facebook comments and they respond back in kind. Sorry. No. I don’t want an answer squeezed into 140 characters.

Apparently, I’m alone in this. The survey shows that 59% of organizations having adopted Twitter and 60% are using Facebook. Nearly almost 85% of those using one, have both. Peachy. But how’s that working out for ya?

When we looked into proper use of social channels for customers (that is, programs with well-defined processes to support the channels), we found that only one-third of them had better or equally defined processes and the rest had not yet defined their social processes.

So, two-thirds are jumping in without their water wings and hoping for the best. Nice.

Now how about this quote from the report:

Knowing throughout customer service history that organizations must justify projects within a year or less of their deployment and that the ROI must be “proven” to exist before the project is approved, we were expecting to find an overwhelming majority saying they had achieved the expected results; near 80% would’ve been a tad high, 70% is more in line with expectations. The majority of the organizations (54%) however are not yet sure if they have reached their objectives (compared to 40% that did).

“Not sure if they have reached their objectives,” is code for “we have no idea what we’re doing.” Sword Ciboodle calls it “messy” and I like them even more for that.

What I get from all of this is that companies still think that social media is the magic key to the customer kingdom. It’s not. Facebook appears to be personal, but it’s actually quite cold and very public. Why should I have to voice my product concerns in a public forum before I get your attention? Why can’t I e-mail you and you e-mail me back with a proper answer?

I do believe that social media channels can be good for large-scale customer service issues such as explaining an outage, emphasizing a change in policy, or apologizing for a botched job. If the problem is affecting a large number of customers, then by all means, post a note on Facebook to get the word out. But please don’t use Twitter DM’s to solve an individual customer problem. I am not my Twitter feed or Facebook page. I am a human being who is trying to put money in your pocket. I think I deserve a more personal means of connecting.

What do you think about using social media for customer service? Good idea that needs some work or doomed to failure?