Breaking the Silence: Customer Service and Social Media

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how social media and the Internet plays a part in customer servicing.As an event planner, I’ve spent many years working with various suppliers and clients. I hope that my level of customer service with clients has always been courteous, respectful, professional and positive. I always try to meet and (sometimes) exceed expectations. However, receiving customer service in return is a completely different story. There’s been so many times where I’ve experienced poor customer service. For every one excellent customer service, I’ve experienced at least two or three times poor customer service. Now you may wonder if my expectations of customer service might be high if I’ve received poor customer service so many times; however, I chalk it up to poor training and communications. So how does this relate to social media and the Internet?

With social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, the explosion of bloggers, and dependence on the Internet for information, people can easily provide positive and negative word of mouth with a click of a mouse. Such websites as Tripadvisor, Urbanspoon, and Dine Here.ca are consulted by many for travel and restaurant reviews. How many times have you used these websites to find out if the hotel you are looking for is deserving enough for your reservation and money? Experienced bad customer service at a restaurant? Did you decide to tweet about it or write a review about this experience to post online? What about a restaurant you have heard of but not sure if you want to go? Therefore, businesses these days should be weary of their reputation through social networking and the Internet, specifically when it comes to monitoring their customer service. A lot of customers may not have the aggressive/confrontational nature to approach the manager of a business on the spot when they are upset about customer service or to compliment on good service. Instead, they turn to the Internet. This compliment or complaint maybe in the form of an email, a tweet, a Facebook status update, or even a review written on a blog or website. Many companies who are efficient in marketing know to hire someone to monitor the Internet constantly, in order to ensure that their company’s reputation remains positive. However, there are still lots of companies who neglect that aspect of their business and are silent in social media and the Internet. These companies will only provide more ammunition for customers to dislike them, as silence does not resolve problems.

Below are a few examples of companies I have dealt with who have used or not used social media to their advantage.

Crowne Plaza Seattle – This summer I had a chance to stay at the Crowne Plaza Seattle. After my stay, I emailed the Crowne Plaza with my feedback (which included positive and negative feedback) but never received a response back. Recently, my friend got around to posting a review of our stay at the hotel on Tripadvisor.com, rating it only 2 stars and commenting on the service and lack of response to my email. In return, the General Manager of the hotel responded to the Tripadvisor posting and requested that we email her again. I re-forwarded my email to her and she responded with an adequate response within a day. I appreciate that the General Manager took the time to monitor the Internet for negative reviews and to follow-up with that. This example shows you that the hotel probably has one or multiple people reviewing websites online and following up with customer feedback.

Capone’s Restaurant – Last month I had a bad experience at Capone’s Restaurant in Yaletown. During the evening, I tweeted some comments about Capone’s. However, no response came from Capone’s in response to my tweets through the night. After the evening was over, I went home and emailed Capone’s owner with feedback on the poor service and how they could improve. I also posted a review on Dine Here.ca. After a month, I have still yet to hear back from anyone. Based on Dine Here, Capone’s ratings are down to 2 1/2 stars, and more negative reviews have been posted. Silence is not the key. Silence means that this business owner does not respect its customers, does not want to change its business, does not want improvement. What’s the point of a Twitter or email account if you can’t even communicate with your customers?

WestJet – I flew WestJet to Hawaii this summer. I used to like WestJet for its customer service in comparison to Air Canada; however, this time around I found some issues with my flight. I sent in a complaint through WestJet’s website when I returned from my flight. It took over a month before I received a response via email to direct me online to view my response to my complaint. The response was very generic and felt like a template response. It did not seem as though anyone went to the trouble to investigate and provide a factual genuine response. At the end of the response, the website asked if my complaint was resolved, in which I selected no and explained why. It has been another month and yet I have not heard back again from WestJet. Another key tip for social media and Internet communications: timeliness! No one likes to sit around waiting over a month for a response. Efficient businesses will respond within a week. Anything later will be old news.

How have you used social media and the Internet to respond about customer service to the businesses you’ve dealt with? Comments would be appreciated!

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