It's frustrating to be upgraded to a service you didn't request, don't want, value or need based upon a marketing campaign, and then have to take time and use energy to have it corrected.
While I could have used the banks' Twitter presence as a way to get the issue resolved fast, I decided to test the organization by going through normal customer service channels.
I'm still waiting for a communication that confirms our conversation. Needless to say, I won't be a customer for much longer.
Customer service is good brand management, just like contracts are marketing, just like how your people behave on the delivery floor are marketing, etc.
If your brilliant growth idea is to force customers to opt out, you will succeed, permanently.
Organizations with broken systems are also learning another important lesson — whether they have outposts in social networks or not, customers will take their issues online.
How long are you willing to go down the reactive route?
Fair vs. special in social
Because issues get amplified quickly online, many businesses are finding themselves in a vise — impact of presences in social networks depends on overall customer experience. Social outposts are a double-edged sword, damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Depending on the organization's karma, not being there may not be an option anymore. However, being more responsive than through normal channels, "DM me your account and we'll take care of things", sets a bad precedent.
It sends the message that when all else fails, complaining publicly will get to a resolution, and it usually does. And because from experience all else has by and large failed for many with so many organization published customer service channels, people who can now skip those entirely.
Life is not fair, we all agree on that. However, the root cause of special vs. fair treatment online comes from deep organizational disconnects. Unless your business plans to use what it learns online as an opportunity to fix internal processes, social outposts will continue to be expensive lightning rods.
Expensive on two fronts:
- special customer treatment due to least effort and cost for customers to get their issue resolved, which is not sustainable for the business
- bad influence on the rest of the people watching what is happening, which is the worst kind of advertising you don't buy
What can you do to bridge the disconnect?
Make every customer special
By fixing your internal systems and processes so that treatment is fair for all. People respect fairness when they experience it. It's a good business practice to look at the unintended consequences of short term decisions on the long term viability of your organization.
A solid reputation as a fair business gives you a good baseline to do more interesting things online. It buys you interest where there would be skepticism, or worse, a cynical outlook. It also positions your organization to benefit the most from social interactions.
Fairness builds credibility, the main ingredient in trust. The consistency of fair gives you a license to impress proactively. On the inside, fair frees you from the constant hair on fire situations, so you can invest that energy back into growing the business.
However, fair doesn't mean ignoring issues or covering up for them. Retaliating for negative reviews is not the way to go in the same way that rewarding only the digital squeaky wheels will set a precedent — your lawyers agree on this one, too (go ahead, ask them).
The whole Web is a big customer conversation. Earn attention by using your outposts to grow commerce, to transform the tansactional nature of buying into repeat business. It's a preferable option to fighting to keep those transactions you've had with buyers from turning sour.
What is your behavior teaching customers? What can you do to make a difference today?
[hat tip to Judy Gombita for engaging in this conversation]