In today’s Wall Street Journal there’s a story about how Citibank is using Twitter to respond to customer complaints. One customer, frustrated after being left on hold for 40 minutes with customer service, tweeted her problem and was immediately contacted for a call back.
In an environment where one consumer–especially one with “Klout”–can share a bad experience with thousands of people at once, this is a smart move for a big bank. And it shouldn’t be made just out of fear of retaliation (although that isn’t a half bad reason alone) but it makes sense to maintain a customer, rather than lose her. A happy (and in this case, surprised customer) who is getting better service than expected will share her delight with her friends as well.
When I hear big businesses say “we can’t afford to have someone sitting on social media answer customer service questions” after I get over the urge to laugh, I tell them, “you can’t afford not to.”
Whatever your strategy and goals are for social media, you can be absolutely sure that your customers are going to use it as a customer service channel. They really don’t care that your goal was to build traffic or increase brand awareness. When someone isn’t happy and her favorite mode of communication is Twitter, she’s going to use it.
Start calculating the cost of losing a customer and the “brand awareness” that comes from having a frustrated customer share her experience with friends, and you’ll find that you really can afford it. All of the banks she can choose from offer checking accounts and mortgages and pretty much the same services. This goes for just about any business. Your offerings are a commodity. Unless you have an extraordinary product, it’s the way you care for your customers that will give you a competitive advantage.