Issue: Passive Customer Support via Social Channels

I’ve recently been pondering (ok, maybe more like fuming) over customer support via social channels. There is so much diversity in terms of levels of support offered, but to me, one thing is clear: if you have a social presence, I expect you to be responsive when I Tweet/Facebook/G+/etc to you (ok, who really uses G+?!). The proliferation of customer support channels on the social web has engrained this expectation in me. Is it fair to the business? No, not necessarily. But as a customer, do I care? No. I want you to answer my question/complaint/desperate cry for help. Now.

Like I said, I’ve been pondering this for a while, but one recent experience has finally convinced me to write a blog post on the topic.

My biggest issue – passive customer support.

What do I mean by passive support? Well, the other day I was trying to change the week number start day in Tableau (it is default set to Sun-Sat, but given that I analyze data for an academic institution, I actually care about weeks that are Mon-Sun). I struggle for a few minutes trying to figure it out on my own in the software. When I’ve finally exhausted my knowledge of Tableau, I give up, and decide to send a tweet out to @Tableau asking how to change the default start day of week. And their response?

Two frustrations here.

First – it took several hours to get a response, by which time I had all together given up and moved on to a new project (though an answer would still be very helpful). Second – when I finally did receive a tweet back, I was directed to their community forum and told to ask my question there.

Excuse me? I asked you a question. I don’t want to be told to go to another medium all together to ask my question again. I just want an answer!

You don’t have to spell it all out for me in 140 characters. But how about a link to an article. Or if you are set on directing me to your support forum, a link to a similar discussion there (I know I can’t be the first person with this question).

This is an example of what I call passive customer service. I did get a response, but was it what I wanted? No. Instead, it was a response that re-directed me to post my question in a forum that Tableau is more comfortable with. My beef though, is that you are a) a technology company (which automatically makes me expect that you are ahead of the times), and b) you have a twitter presence (which automatically makes me expect that you will respond to me/engage with me as I am engaging with you).

If your social business model is dead set against customer service via social channels, then at the least, I expect some up front communication on your part. In blaring bright letters, I want to see something along the lines of ‘we don’t answer customer support questions via twitter (or other social channel) but would be happy to assist you at our website/community forum/other support mechanism. Without this type of proactive communication, there is an assumption on my part that you will help me.

So I’m begging you, be proactive, whether that simply means proactive communication that you will not respond to my questions, or quickly let me know you are working on a solution.

On a more positive note…

There are many companies out there who are doing social customer service right. One of my favorites is Comcast (@comcastcares). I’ve had several personal interactions with their twitter handle regarding service requests or pricing and have always gotten a prompt helpful response.

One of the best examples I have is a personal experience with Delta Airlines. You can read about it my blog post here. Delta is leading the way for customer service in the airline industry. Though others, like Southwest and US Airways, have a social media presence, they clearly state that they do not deal with support issues via those channels. While I can respect that they are clear about that up front, I think they are leaving money on the table as more and more people realize the benefits of social customer service and turn to their competitors who are quick to respond to cries for help from their consumers. Honorable mention: American Airlines (@AmericanAir) is another airline who is starting to do social right.

Gary Vaynerchiuk sums it all up pretty well in his book The Thank You Economy when he says “We’re living in what I like to call the Thank You Economy, because only the companies that can figure out how to mind their manners in a very old-fashioned way — and do it authentically — are going to have a prayer of competing.”

To me, it’s the authenticity and appreciation of me as a customer that makes me want to continue doing business with you (and speak favorably of you in all my social channels).

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