Warning: This article was inspired by true events. Only the names have been changed to protect me so I don’t get sued or something.
Our Story So Far…
So let’s say you’re a guy who went out and paid over $500 on a new, name-brand Soundbar and Subwoofer combination for your living room TV. You get it home and set it up and it’s awesome. You couldn’t be happier with it. It’s everything advertised and it’s exactly how it sounded when you did the demo at the store. From movies to streaming music, video games to sports, you have no complaints. Yes, friends, I was ‘that guy’.
One day, about two months after purchase, right in the middle of running around in the desert with Lawrence of Arabia shooting at enemy Ottoman Empire soldiers, I heard something that can best be described as a ‘noise’ from my subwoofer. Well, maybe ‘noise’ isn’t the right word.
I guess it was more of popping, rumbling, vibrating, rattling cacophony that not only was quite disturbing, but it ended up surprising and distracting me to the point where my character died (not to mention T.E. Lawrence!), causing me to lose the battle and therefore changing the course of the First World War forever.
Congratulations, Ottomans. I guess you’ve finally won.
Anyway, after the obligatory turning it off and turning it back on again, unplugging and replugging it, testing it on the TV, streaming music and everything else and realizing that for some reason that yes, this subwoofer is busted, I get on the phone. I personally hate making phone calls, but I dropped over $500 on this thing only two months ago, it had to be under warranty – and it was – but then came the problems.
The Customer service rep on the phone first explained that it sounded like a problem we couldn’t troubleshoot on the phone: I expected that.
The subwoofer, which is the part of the system I’m having a problem with, only works that particular soundbar: understandable.
So, under the terms of the warranty, since there were no authorized service centers in my area (odd because I live in a major city, but whatever, it happens) I’d have to SHIP THE ENTIRE SOUNDBAR AND SUBWOOFER TO THEIR SERVICE CENTER: Not. Good.
I explained to him that the whole reason I bought this sound bar in the first place is because I literally have no other way to hear the television in the living room (long story but suffice it to say I can’t use the built-in TV speakers) and he said ‘I’m sorry’…and when you hear that, everyone knows that means it’s game over. It’s either their way or no way: even worse.
Ok, fine. It might only be a few days or a week at the most, right? I can always use the second floor TV for a while until I get my soundbar back and….the guy tells me it will take four weeks to fix. Not including the time to ship it to them and then get it shipped back.
FOUR. WEEKS. WITHOUT. TV.
Not gonna happen.
So I just said forget it and hung up. So here I am, in my living room with a half-working soundbar that – I paid $500 for only two months ago – with no subwoofer. First of all, anyone who’s listened to a soundbar without a subwoofer will tell you that it’s basically pointless and you may as well just listen to regular TV speakers and second of all, I don’t know how lucrative you think SEO is, but let me tell you, 500 bucks is 500 bucks and I don’t appreciate just having to eat about $350 of it.
So, needless to say, I was mad.
What did I do? I did what any technology literate upset customer would do. I went to Twitter.
That’s right. I went straight to twitter and did an ‘@’ message to their company’s online support about the general problem and how basically the solution the rep offered was, and I quote, ‘not a good look’.
My goal for this was, of course, to hopefully publicly shame this company into actually providing a workable solution to the issue – hey, I paid $500 for this thing! Maybe like ship me a box where I send back this old system and they send me out a new one or something like that, I don’t know. All I know is a month without sound and just tossing $500 down the drain are both unacceptable solutions.
So anyway, I wait a couple hours and lo and behold, I get a reply from the company asking me to DM them. So I do. And after I send them literally all the information about the problem and what I’ve done to try to correct it so far and my contact information, about three hours later, I get a reply asking if I had ‘previously contacted them about this issue’ and what my telephone number – which I already gave them – was. But I gave it to them again, maybe they missed it or something, I don’t know, whatever. But even though I replied to them only minutes after their request, I got nothing back. So I waited.
Three hours passed. Then five. Then twelve.
And then a day passed. I did another DM to make sure they got my last one. No answer to even that one – and keep in mind this is all during regular business hours in all time zones in the US.
I did another ‘@’ message to them wondering what is going on. Then three hours after that, I finally got another DM…this time they’re asking for my first and last name, address, serial number of the soundbar and date of purchase. So I gave that to them within three minutes of their request. That was two days ago. I still haven’t heard back from that yet.
So I’m still sitting here, as we speak, with a broken sound bar. I’m still out $500 and now I’m angry and frustrated at the lack of solutions provided on the telephone and angry beyond belief at the customer service response time on Social Media.
And thusly, this article was born.
Social Media Done Completely and Horribly Wrong
As you probably know, there are so many ways to completely fail at Social Media as a brand. From outright gaffes to tone-deaf references, a social media marketer’s life is fraught with peril but when it comes to customer service, you’d think established brands would have it down by now, right? Just take the lessons you learned from the call center and your other channels and apply it to your Social media channels, right? You’d assume wrong.
So what did this company do wrong? Everything, if you ask me – but let me try to be objective for now.
First of all, as you can probably see from my example above, the main problem I had with this experience is that they are (present tense because it’s not resolved yet!) taking way too long. If you are a brand and your idea of Social Media Customer Service is to send one sentence via DM every day, you’ve failed. You’ve failed as a social media brand and you’ve failed as customer service department. You’ve offended your family and you’ve offended a Shaolin temple – sorry, Bruce Lee moment.
You simply can’t string customers along like that, especially in today’s market when customers have more choices than ever. Sure, your responses won’t be as fast as they are on the telephone or chat or even by email and most customers get that, but if it seems to take your Social Media team 3 days to resolve an issue, you’ve failed. You couldn’t send a clearer message about how you don’t value your customers or their time if you flat out told them ‘we don’t care about you or your issue’.
Put yourself in the customer’s place and you’re talking to a company about getting an issue resolved and it’s going on day 4 and you’re getting nowhere, you’ve already tried calling in, got the run around there and now you’re getting the run around on social as well. How likely are you to do business with that company in the future? Would you care that the business only has one guy doing social media support and he’s only in the office from 9 to 5 on weekdays and trying to answer 20 other complaints and questions at once?
No. You’d neither know nor care.
It’s Customer Service 101. You treat every customer like they’re the only customer, including on Social Media.
If you can’t do that, you need to either hire a larger social media customer support staff, outsource your social media and empower that team to handle complaints or don’t do social media support at all.
What’s Taking So Long?
According to polls, Customers expect complaints via social media to take no longer than one hour. That’s right, one hour. Realistically, however, sometimes that’s just not possible, we talked about that a minute ago.
Whether it’s because you have other work going on, you can’t afford to hire a large social media team or outsource to another company or because your ‘social media guy’ is also the ‘email guy’, the ‘blog guy’, the receptionist and about five other jobs, sometimes you just can’t reply within an hour to everyone. Not ideal but that’s alright. Take a breath. Relax.
People, even upset customers, are usually reasonable once they feel they’re being listened to and paid attention to in a timely fashion. That is the key right there. From what we’ve seen with our clients, if you reply to all complaints at least within 24 hours of receiving them, you should be alright. If it’s going to take a little longer, let people know this as soon as you can and let them know when they should expect a response! Sure, they may not like to be told that it’ll take a few hours to get back to them about their issue and they may even hem and haw a little about it, but its far better to do that than to just let customers wonder if anyone is even listening to them or if the support rep just said ‘forget it’ and took off. It’s really not that hard. There are third party programs like Sprout Social, ZenDesk and more that can offer you Social media support solutions to make life easier.
Treat your Employees the Way You Want your Customers Treated
However, all the ‘platform based solutions’ mean nothing if you don’t train your staff on how to give great Customer Service through Social Media Channels. There are online guides to help you do this so don’t just take Jim from DevOps or Beth from Accounting one day and say ‘Ok, you’re the social media guy now’ and do not – Repeat: Do. Not. – hire ‘your buddy’s kid’ that’s always on ‘The Facebooks’ to run your Social Media team. He’ll run it alright. Straight into the ground.
Also, if you really care about your Social Media program, you won’t get some intern to do it, either. Look, just hire people who know what they’re doing. Do not cheap out on this! This is the face of your company and your reputation depends on it! Pay and treat them properly. Why? Well, have you ever gotten a customer service agent that you can just tell can’t stand their job? Yeah, the world doesn’t need more of that.
There’s a saying that goes ‘Pay peanuts and you get monkeys’ and it’s true. Do you have any idea what it’s like to actually be a customer service rep? I do. Before I got into digital marketing, I was one for many years, which is why no matter how bad the service is, I try to never be ‘that guy’ – screaming, yelling, demanding to speak to a manager. No, customer service reps usually have it hard enough without yet another angry idiot trying to get them fired.
Imagine yourself as the rep. Would you really care about a stream of screaming people, blaming and cursing at you about things that aren’t your fault for eight hours per day only to make minimum wage or slightly above meanwhile getting micromanaged by supervisors, little to no benefits, a half hour lunch break, hardly any vacation time (and even if you did, where would you go on minimum wage?) and being basically tethered to a phone to where you have to actually log time to go to the bathroom? Treat your staff well and it will pay dividends. Also, you can’t just call a meeting and go ‘Hey everyone, Zappos is great. Be like Zappos and if you don’t, you’re fired.’ – as I’ve seen first-hand certain companies do. No, if you want your employees to be like Zappos Employees, you need to treat them like Zappos treats their customer service employees.
Social Media Customer service is no different than traditional customer service in the sense of it’s really easy to let things go completely off the rails. Don’t let it. Be the brand that is known for having a great customer service team both on social media and on all of your other channels by simply treating your employees and your customers better. Train and empower your staff to make necessary decisions to help your customers, pay and treat them well and you’ll have a much more engaged staff and you’ll see a huge difference in how they treat your customers.
Sidebar: At the time writing, I’m still waiting on a DM back from the company about my soundbar – it’s been a week now. Not a good look, indeed.
Sidebar to the Sidebar: At the time of posting, it has been about 10 days since the initial contact with the company and I’ve given up. I gave a friend of mine who knows about this sort of thing a few bucks and he was able to figure it out. Needless to say, I’m never buying another product from the unnamed company again.