Who Loves Ya, Baby? Using Social Media for Customer Service

375px-Telly_Savalas_as_Kojak_1973As I’m writing this, Walmart’s @walmart Twitter account has racked up almost 250K tweets. You’ll find similarly huge numbers if you check out many of the country’s biggest retailers.

This is because Twitter has become a major conduit for customer service conversations and many companies use it – and other social media – quite wisely to resolve customer service issues and also to proactively improve customer relations. However, not every company is putting social media to their best use when dealing with customer service issues.

Much of the problem can be boiled down to the age-old tradeoff between words and action. When a customer brings up a customer service problem in social media, the responder needs to be empowered to make the situation right whenever possible. Lending a sympathetic virtual ear just doesn’t cut it.

For example, I’ve had a few Twitter dialogs with American Airlines about various issues, and while I get quick responses, so far they haven’t been able to resolve any of the problems that I’ve brought to their attention. They apologize and thank me for my patience, but there seems to be a missing link in their system; they either don’t have enough authority or they are disconnected from the operational side of the airline.

Situations like this make a customer want to respond with, “Can I tweet to your supervisor now, please?”

Advantage: Small biz

It should be easy for small businesses to avoid this kind of problem. They don’t have the layers of management that prevent nimble responses to customer service problems. Some have had good success using their Facebook pages while others are leveraging Twitter.

Dave Greenbaum, who runs Doctor Dave Computer Repair in Lawrence, Kansas, has made great use of his Facebook page. He is able to respond to customer service queries all throughout the day as well as use his posts to engage his customer base.

If you commit to opening social media channels to customer service inquiries, just be sure you have the systems in place and the authority bestowed properly to guarantee good outcomes. However, don’t stop at viewing social media as just ways to resolve customer service issues. See them as tools to create unexpected delights.

Anticipate customer needs

A Four Seasons Hotel in California carefully monitors its Twitter mentions. If you’re a Twitter user, you know that it’s not too unusual to tweet something like, “Heading to @hotelname for two days of business meetings. Really looking forward to #amenity.”

This Four Seasons Hotel saw that a customer was on his way and he was really looking forward to hitting the spa when he arrived. The hotel quickly replied via Twitter and asked if they could make a reservation for him.

Telly Savalas, when he was starring in the ’70s television series “Kojak” was famous for the catch phrase, “Who loves ya, baby?” That tag line reflects the approach you should bring to your social media customer service interactions. Let your customers know that you care for them: Take care of their problems and treat them to an occasional unexpected thrill.

Sponsored by AT&T

Image: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.