I would like to focus on one important aspect that is a Customer Experience “make it or break it” situation: a customer in distress that sends out a help call into the Twitter ether.
Many companies are now monitoring tweets and Social Media messages to detect adverse messages before they go viral and have their SM teams respond immediately.
At the same time, many customers have learned the hard way that contacting a call center or sending a complaint email is either inefficient or takes way too long to get a satisfactory solution. For example, it took Iberia four (sic!) months to credit erroneously deducted points back to my FFP account! As a result, companies are actually teaching customers to bypass private conflict resolution processes by rewarding public outcries with an immediate response.
A recent experience with AT&T illustrates this perfectly (I could use an airline example, but it’s more fun doing some fingerpointing outside our industry, isn’t it?). I travel every year several times to the US. I used to have an AT&T prepaid phone SIM card with a number that I kept alive permanently by recharging it diligently. Upon arrival, I always bought a data pack to stay connected. So far, so good. Last February, I arrived, activated a $20 data pack from the $180 credit I had and thought I was done. But 2 hours later I got a message that my credit was at $0. I entered my account management web page to find out that AT&T had continued charging its outrageous ad-hoc data rate even after activating the data pack. No doubt about it: the datapack AND the individual data charges appeared BOTH in the statement.
After long, long calls to the AT&T call center (costing them probably more than what I was asking for) proved useless, highly frustrating and surrealistic, I tweeted my anger out into the Twitterspace.
Minutes later, I got a response from a nice AT&T lady, promising help. That’s amazing! When you try to get a discrete private solution on a perfectly documented issue, you just hit wall. But when you go public with your complaint, immediately someone jumps in to take you out of the public loop, offering a quick solution.
What does this mean for defining the right Customer Service processes in the age of Social Media?
1) Social Media communications must be perfectly coordinated with Customer Service, or be a part of it. Assigning the SM team only to Marketing is a huge risk. It’s all about Customer Relations, regardless the channel.
2) Revise your Customer Service processes. I know, issues may need time until they can be resolved, but SM-generation customers are not used to wait. Tell them at least what you are going to do and when they can expect a final response.
3) SM is great to attend customers in real time, but make sure you do not convert SM into a shortcut for immediate solutions, bypassing the formal channels.
4) Do not overpromise on Twitter. If you promise help, provide help (see below).
5) Listen to customers and clarify any misunderstandings that can avoid the filing of a formal complaint. SM is a great triage tool, but the Customer Relations department must do the in-depth problem solving.
6) Keep the help process transparent. Have your SM team collect all the necessary information to assist the customer through the established procedures, using private communications channels and a single point or, better, person of contact.
Do you want to know the outcome of my relationship with AT&T? A complete disaster! Apparently, AT&T has only low seniority employees assigned to its prepaid customers. The Twitter promise to “help” went nowhere. I neither got a response nor the money back. After AT&T stole $140 from my account and never solved the issue, I switched to T-Mobile, only to find out that their Data Network is nearly European/Asian standard and much better than AT&T’s (unfortunately, they will be swallowed by the “bad one” soon).
What really puzzles me is the blatant overpromise I got over Twitter, offering help only after I told the world that the Call Center had failed to provide it, while never fulfilling that help promise.
I am sure us airline people can do better. Can we?