Jo Dodds’ Social Media and HR Blog

Social Customer Service

social customer service

The large companies that have embraced social media across their organisation are utilising social media across all functions of the business where there are ‘customer touches’, including providing social customer service.

Those companies who have yet to get their head, not to mention their company culture around, the new social business world have probably got disgruntled customers sharing their experiences on the social media platform of their choice, with absolutely no idea that it’s happening. Or if they do know, they only see the negative and they don’t know what to do about it.

And they are missing such a massive opportunity.

Using Social Customer Service used to be a last resort

When social media was first hitting main stream many people made sure that they’d exhausted the more traditional means of making a complaint to an organisation before they committed their thoughts to social media. There was a sort of polite etiquette that allowed a company to resolve an issue first before revealing to ‘the world’.

You may have heard of the classic example of Dave Carroll and United Airlines. The basic story is that Dave and his band members were travelling on a United Airlines flight and heard a fellow passenger exclaiming that the baggage handlers were throwing guitars around.

When they looked out of the window they realised they were their guitars, and Dave subsequently discovered that his $3,500 Taylor guitar was smashed.

He followed the original online etiquette of complaining direct to United Airlines to get them to cover the cost of repairing the guitar. He emailed and called over some months and was constantly told that the airline wouldn’t take responsibility.

After NINE months he realised that there was another route and told them that, if nothing was done, being a songwriter he would record songs about them and post them on YouTube.

You’ve guessed it, nothing was done so he wrote and posted this song, which reached 1 million views on YouTube within four days and at the time of writing has nearly 12 million views!

There are many learning points in this case study, including how other people like the owner of Taylor Guitars got involved turning someone else’s customer service problem into a marketing and sales opportunity, and you can watch David Meerman Scott talking about the case study here.

Young Consumers Expect Social Customer Service

In January 2012 results of the ‘Social Media Customer Service Report‘, conducted by TNS on behalf of Sitel, were announced. They surveyed over 1000 consumers in Britain between the ages of 16-64.

The key thing that they found is that consumers who are under 25 are leading a shift to wanting social customer service by turning to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and blogs and forums to get information, answers and resolution to complaints.

Need for Social Customer Service is Growing

The stats aren’t massive at the moment – 7% of 16-24 year olds say that they turn to social media first when they have a complaint – but as the generations age and as the world becomes even more social can you see how that will need to impact your customer service strategy?

Here’s a larger percentage: 57% of consumers – including 71% of 16-24 year olds, 65% of 25-34 year olds and 64% of 65-44 year olds – will, when they have a problem with a product, search online for a solution.

So what does that mean for businesses?

You need to create content that answers questions about your products, like instructional videos, checklists, how to information and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Clearly, demographics play a big part in determining your social media strategy; older consumers are currently more likely to pick up the phone when they have a problem but the above statistics show that will start to change as society gets older.

Social Customer Service – Meet Your Customers Where They Want to Interact

Many businesses continue to believe that they are providing good customer service by deciding where they want to meet their customers, as opposed to determining where their customers want that interaction to be.

It’s true that many customers still want to make contact in the traditional ways like by telephone or email but where they want to use social media then organisations, particularly those aimed at a younger demographic, need to make sure that they can meet them on social platforms and provide great service.

And as consumers ‘grow up’ and everything shifts you will find that more of your customers will want to interact with your business online, so if you don’t already have a strategy for social customer service now is the time to get it in place, before it is too late!

Image: renjith krishnan /

2 comments… add one

  • Kathryn Colas

    2012-04-27, 5:58 pm

    Great blog! Hadn’t heard the broken guitar story – great marketing customer/service follow-up by the guitar maker and guitar case maker. Assume the airline has not resolved the issue.

  • Jo Dodds

    2012-04-28, 6:25 pm

    Hi Kathryn

    Actually, the airline did contact Dave Carroll a couple of days after the
    first song was released – you can see his statement here ‘Too little too late’ comes to
    mind! The video of the 2nd song is here and I’ve also just seen that
    Dave Carroll now has a website about customer service and this case study
    as well as a separate site to help people make complaints about companies -
    he even does a keynote about the United case study!

    Thanks for commenting :-)

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