A lot is being written about the advantage of tweeting issues instead of calling company’s customer service lines. There is a growing trend for companies to monitor Twitter streams for opportunities to ‘proactively’ deal with issues.
The concept started as companies began to understand the tremendous damage that can be caused when unaddressed issues go viral. They are beginning to understand that the old research about service failures – that the average person will tell 8 people about a poor experience – no longer holds true. The average person now has the capability to tell thousandsof people about their bad experience. So the more progressive companies, like Zappo’s, began to troll social media looking for unhappy people, then nipping issues in the bud before they could grow into something unmanageable. So far, so good.
Now, however, it seems that companies are trying to expand their Twitter presence beyond just a service failure recovery role, into becoming a primary customer service tool, and this is a huge strategic error. There are a few things to consider:
1. Why wait for a tweet? By the time people resort to Twitter, they are usually already frustrated beyond belief. Research tells us that such delays in addressing issues is catastrophic for customer retention.
2. Companies are now using the same people who are on their customer service team to deal with Twitter issues. These are often the same people who have already created much of the customers’ frustration in the first place. This will only serve to push customers away even more.
3. Why drive customers to a tremendously public medium to air their dissatisfaction? Why risk the negative publicity?
Should companies use Twitter for dealing with customer issues? Absolutely – if they are prepared to do it well. But Twitter complaints should really be viewed by a company as (no pun intended) the canary in the customer service mine. Every Twitter complaint represents a service failure at some customer touchpoint. It is there where a company should really be investing its time.