Putting the Human Back into Customer Service

Long gone are the days of a disgruntled customer sharing his or her bad experience with only a handful of people.  Today, poor customer service can be broadcast to hundreds or even thousands of people.  Take, for example, Catherine Brooks, a Florida woman who is suing SunTrust Bank over the way it paid out a construction loan to her builder.  The home is only 65 percent complete, and the $1.6 million loan has dried up.  Brooks has enlisted Twitter to tell her story and has amassed 4,400 followers in the process.

The actions of Brooks are representative of most consumers today.  A recent survey of New York state residents revealed that a whopping 97 percent of respondents are likely to share poor customer service with friends, and approximately half of them will vent on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook.

The instantaneous nature of social media makes it easy for people to vent their frustrations in the heat of the moment. And, it’s generally not the initial posts that do the damage; it’s the exponential potential of “retweeting” that can catapult a complaint to the point of showing up on highly trafficked news sites and blogs.

Savvy companies, such as Southwest Airlines (@SouthWestAir), Best Buy (@Twelpforce) and GM (@GMCustomerSvc) have recognized how to turn this potentially negative situation into a positive one.  Their customer service teams answer questions online in real time and have the authority to be problem solvers, not just policy implementers.  They also put customers first, addressing, with compassion, customers’ problems and issues.

What these companies, and others like them, are doing is not revolutionary – it’s common sense, actually.  Valeria Maltoni, a top social media influencer with nearly 20,000 followers, recently stated, “Companies are starting to see the wisdom of putting the human back into customer service.  Along with the additional promotional opportunity opened up with social media, many are walking the walk and actually listening to customers.”

At the end of the day, isn’t that what successful companies do?  Listen to their customers and address their needs?  How does your company measure up?

— Debbie Dryden, VP, Thought Leadership


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Filed under Customer Experience, Social Media

3 responses to “Putting the Human Back into Customer Service

  1. Very well written. That’s exactly what successful companies do and its what every company that isn’t successful should be doing.

    I’d like to add that it is quite amazing how Internet marketing is changing the tapestry of cross departmental interaction within companies. ie. customer service teams using twitter and so forth.

    • Debbie Dryden

      Great point — forward-thinking companies are indeed using twitter and similiar tools to communicate cross-departmentally. Find it hard to believe that some companies view social media in quite the opposite light — as a distraction — going so far as to block access to certain sites on computers at the workplace.

  2. Right, I know what you mean. Although I can recall a few years back when marketers were still debating whether or not social media results were measurable. Today I no longer hear this question being openly pondered. But maybe there are still a number of naysayers who quietly doubt the credence in assessing KPI’s.

    The scary (or maybe even funny depending on how you look at it) thought that in the not so distant future-when we bump into brands that say this sort of thing we’ll be like, “wow, I really didn’t know they still made brands like you anymore”. 🙂

    By the way Debbie, I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet but I actually wrote a follow up post to yours. Anyhow, take care and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more of your pieces.

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