Friday, 21 August 2009

Why social media makes Customer Service more important

I spoke to a friend last night who visited Iceland for his first wedding anniversary. He had treated his wife and splashed out on the Hilton which is apparently the second best hotel in Iceland.

On arrival he was greeted with the news that the hotel manager had upgraded their reservation to the executive suite, on one of the top floors, affording spectacular views over Reykjavik. The reception staff wished my friend and his wife a happy anniversary and told them to shout if they need anything to make their stay more pleasant. When they got up to the room, there was a greeting card congratulating them and a bouquet of flowers.

Now that is what I call customer service. The hotel knew about the special occasion because my friend added this to the comments field when booking online. However, the fact that the manager made the effort to give them something for nothing and that the hotel staff were all aware of the importance of the occasion is testament to a company that takes customer service seriously.

As a result of this kindness, my friend has recounted the story to almost everyone he knows. He added an update to his Facebook account when he was over in Iceland saying how happy he and his wife were. That message instantly reached hundreds of people. Following a conversation in a pub, I'm now writing about this and will link to it across my social networks.

Why? Because it illustrates the point that positive customer service can have a ripple effect. One of the positive effects of social media is the ability for individuals to influence decision making via user generated content. This content could be on a social network like Facebook, in a Twitter tweet or in a review posted on a website. The fact is, with people sharing information (in some cases instantly) freely, the impact the actions your business takes can have a significant impact on your brand reputation.

If you look back to the problem United Airlines created for itself when it damaged a customer's guitar, it provoked a chain reaction from the video posted to YouTube which amassed over 2m views from July 7th to July 12th after the story broke. The company's reputation was tarnished and they had to respond, eventually providing positive customer service. Social media provided the tools for an individual to express his frustration by the inept customer service he was provided. This social commentary influenced the opinions and actions of thousands of people globally.

For brand marketers and PR, I think this concept is proving hard to handle and also quite daunting. No longer can you rely on press releases to spin a positive line, you have to monitor brand conversations across the social space and learn to engage with people on their terms and in their networks. Communication is more pervasive than ever and companies have to respond by taking customer service seriously across the business; the adage that the customer is always right is truer than ever and how business deals with its customers is wonderfully visible.

Why has social media changed the requirements for customer service? Because an individual can influence people globally which in turn can have a significant impact on a business. Perhaps investors will take stock and impress the value of good service on their management team because ignoring it could affect the value of their investments.

Do you agree that social media is making customer service standards more visible and more important?

No comments: