Monday, December 2, 2013

The One Social Media Question No Customer Care Professional Should Ask

Over the past couple of years, I have presented at or attended many conferences where the topic of social customer care was discussed. Invariably, as the dialog turns to rising customer expectations, a hand goes up or a voice shouts out the one question that, perhaps more than any other, makes me irrepressibly angry. That question is "Is the customer expectation reasonable?"

It may surprise you, but I am not a believer that the "customer is always right." Individuals can be wrong, sometimes. Each of us, at one time or another, has been an unreasonable customer demanding something that a brand could not and should not provide us.

However, while an individual customer may not always be right, once a significant portion of customers express the same expectation, the time for debate is past. The question stops being what is fair, reasonable or right and becomes how the company must change to meet those expectations. We are well past the time for deliberation with respect to social customer care.

There are plenty of studies that demonstrate what consumers expect from brands in social media when it comes to customer care. For example:

The consumer has spoken! How are brands doing? Pretty darn poorly:
Increasing numbers of customers expect brands will be available to furnish customer care in social media. That expectation is neither fair nor unfair; it simply is. One can debate the fair-mindedness of customer expectations until the cows come home, but it will not change the reality of the situation. 

Some tasked with customer care question the reasonableness of consumers' response time expectations, but it is difficult to understand why that is. Corporate customer service centers have found a way to staff phone lines so that the average telephone hold time in 2013 is just 56 seconds, yet if that same customer tweets to a corporate social profile, an hour seems an unreasonable time to respond. (Shouldn't we thank consumers who turn to social channels for their service requests--they have given us the luxury of taking an hour to reply versus demanding we pick up the phone in 56 seconds?)

What many find so infuriating about the brands that struggle to furnish social media customer care is that many of these same companies have no difficulty staffing their social media marketing teams or spending increasing amounts of money on social media advertising. The recent Altimeter study found that companies are 75% more likely to have marketing staff dedicated to social media than customer service staff. 

In the coming years, more consumers will turn to social media for customer service and their expectations for rapid response will only grow. Is that reasonable? Far more so than your brand expecting consumers to follow, engage and share its marketing in social media while the company ignores the same customers' questions, requests and feedback in the channel.


Terry said...

Good post Augie. I use social to get customer care all the time. I see it as part of my research into the topic. Here is my conclusion, I get a response back pretty quickly, especially on Twitter but it is canned and impersonal with many auto-generated. They ask me to provide details etc. which is reasonable but increasingly after doing so, nothing happens. So, my feeling is that social is not connected to customer care and we are focused on time not service. Social care is when it is integral to customer service and not two separate groups that are not connected.

Augie Ray said...


Thanks for the comment. What you're describing is social customer handling, not social customer care. :)

Unknown said...

Yep - great post indeed.

Focus Services said...

Great post Mr. Ray. You're correct. After all...they are the customer, and accomadating their needs should be first, reasonable or not.