Photo by Paul Marguerite licensed under Creative Commons

Do Customers Really Need To Shout For Attention?

One of the biggest changes in the way that customers interact with brands over the past few years has been the increase in the use of social networks. Brands have dramatically expanded the number of channels they support from voice and email to include many of the most popular social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.

But this has led to a subtle change in the way that customer to brand communications take place because many of these conversations are conducted transparently on public forums. Contrast a voice call where nobody – except perhaps a supervisor – can hear the interaction between a customer and the agent and that same conversation on Twitter. On Twitter everyone can see what the brand is saying.

This creates the danger for brands of a poor interaction being widely shared. An agent writing a Twitter response that is widely seen as uncaring or not understanding the customer need can find that response shared across the Internet as an example of just how much your brand doesn’t get it.

Conversely there is the opportunity for the same response when a social response is seen as an example of a great experience. Some brands have even used their social channels to call out bad behaviour or comments by their customers – racism for example – and have been rewarded as customers share the comment and say that this is a brand I want to do business with.

So this public nature of social channels is one of the biggest differences between them when compared to the one-to-one nature of voice and email support and some analysis in Forbes recently pointed out that this has created a troubling dynamic – customers feel they need to shout loudly in public to get any attention at all from brands.

I’ll give a typical example. If I’m at an airport, checked in and at the gate then my airline announces a delay to the flight. The team at the gate are overwhelmed with passengers asking for information. I try calling the airline, but I’m placed in a queue listening to music. A typical response is now to send out a tweet saying something like:

Awful service from Airline XYZ today. Flight delays. No information. Nobody helping. I’m never flying with these jokers again. #CustomerService

What the Forbes author is arguing is that this customers doing this are now receiving faster and better service. The airline social media team will quickly respond with information on the delay because they want to shut down the negative online comments. The passenger patiently calling and waiting for help is rewarded only with music and a further delay. The passenger that screamed and shouted in public gets immediate help. How do you expect customers to behave when they understand this?

It’s like some brands are creating a condition where the customers who scream loudest receive the best service and as the Forbes article suggests, this isn’t fair. Brands need to think clearly about their communication strategy so that problems are communicated clearly and widely to all customers as quickly as possible. They also need to ensure that one-to-one channels operate effectively enough to help customers with a time-sensitive request – such as creating a fast track on calls for airline passengers who are about to fly.

The public nature of social networks has created a great environment for brands to demonstrate how they can deliver a great experience, but CX planners need to be careful that they are not creating a situation where customers feel they need to create a crisis when they merely wanted to ask for information.

Let me know what you think about managing different social channels by leaving a comment here or get in touch via my profile.