Customer Service and Social Media: Hand-in-Hand or Foot in Mouth?

     As a self-proclaimed Tumblr addict, I am very accustomed to seeing a rant about something every ten times I scroll down. If you take out the 50% that are about teachers, school, or what they claim are “stupid people”, and the 40% that are about their parents, a solid 10% of them are about companies, mainly retail stores and cell phone providers, that they felt have done them wrong.

     In the technology-centered age that we live in, customer service is taking a predictable route; social media. Social media is a way to access millions of people at once. Companies have realized this and have been quick to take to social media sites to advertise, but a newer phenomenon has been taking place. Companies are now using social media as a way to deal with customer service. Instead of letting customers vent to the public hopelessly, companies are now answering back. There has been a vast increase, and they haven’t just been sympathetic replies. They are genuinely trying to help fix the problem. Albeit, this probably isn’t because they actually care that you have a problem, but it does help them control traffic and cut down on the amount of calls placed to the support line if they can fix your problem before it gets to there. Customer service on twitter was started with the handle @comcastcares. Comcast revolutionized using social media to handle customers’ problems rather than just using social media for promoting their product, or avoiding bad press. Now, more than ever, people are receiving help from some sort of social media, namely Twitter and Facebook.

     One reason companies are so eager to begin handling customer service on social media sites is because of the consequences if they don’t. If one person complains about a company’s shortcomings on the internet, there’s no telling how many people are actually going to see it. If word gets out that a company is not meeting people’s expectations, it could have pretty serious affects. Customers like using social media sites to handle their issues because it’s much more convenient for them. First of all, they are probably on those sites a lot more than they’re on the company’s website. Twitter and Facebook are accessible any time of the day, so people can handle their problems when it’s convenient for them. Sometimes, people just rant about something they think is wrong and they don’t even realize that they’re actually giving the companies much-needed feedback.

     Although customer service’s presence in social media is growing, not everyone thinks it’s such a good idea. For one, people that need a serious issue resolved don’t go to Twitter first. They only rant on social media sites after they have tried, unsuccessfully, the regular help desk or a 1-800 number first. Some nay-sayers out there believe that a lot of companies don’t actually fix the problem, they just want to avoid any negative press, so they give them a reply, but that reply is to call the same people they’ve already called, try something that already hasn’t worked, or offer to talk to someone about it for them, which we all know is probably never going to happen.

     There are some pessimistic people out there, but I think that this is at least a step in the right direction. I’m not saying we should get rid of the phone lines and emails, but social media is a quickly-growing factor in American lives, and if customer service wants to survive, it’s going to have to innovate with us.


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