For years marketers have debated the positive and negative impact word of mouth can have on a brand. Negative customer experiences and word of mouth offline has always been a concern, but fast forward to today’s day and age and very quickly a negative customer experience projected through social media channels can cause a PR disaster.
Unlike offline negative word of mouth a poor customer experience captured online is;
• Real Time – Customers do not have time to reassess the situation, venting their frustrations immediately without further thought
• A Digital Footprint – A bad customer service experience is retained online for others to view for years to come
• More Widespread – It is largely believed that consumers tell 7 or 8 people about a bad experience – but online such a broadcast could be cast to hundreds of contacts.
However despite all the draw backs, one of the big benefits of social media is that organisations can identify unsatisfied customer experiences and nip them in the bud. And if dealt with effectively these consumers may radiate their positive experience to their wider online network.
Thus as social media usage has exploded in Australia, some Australian organisations have taken the brave step into the social media customer service space. So whose doing it and what can we learn from some of the social media customer service case studies in Australia?
Just last month, Panasonic Australia launched support services through both Twitter and Facebook to enable customers to log queries related to products such as Viera televisions and the new Limax Life camera.
Through social platforms, Panasonic has been able to launch its new camera Lumix to enthusiasts and have proactively offered support, to new Lumix customers, which from a customer service perspective is quite forward thinking. In addition Panasonic have made it clear that their strategy will not just focus on one channel but rather support consumers across some of the most popular social media platforms in Australia . However how can Panasonic improve their customer service offering through social media?
The Facebook presence seems to be largely unattended to by its customer service staff. Whilst only a few customers have requested assistance, it seems their questions have either been answered via a direct message to the user or not at all. In the customer service sector obviously delivery is key so this is an important consideration for Panasonic.
In addition Panasonic could consider promoting their new customer service options via their site to encourage more consumers to ask questions because at this stage the service is experiencing some demand but not high volume of take up. Whilst a strategy of inviting more people into the social space to raise their customer service questions or complaints could be risky – it will enable Panasonic to meet changing customer needs as consumers can interact with the brand by their preferred method of communication.
Telecommunications is one industry that suffers from a high level of customer service complaints, therefore it is no wonder that both Optus and Telstra have invested in social media customer service. If you spend 10 minutes searching Twitter there is no wonder why such a strategy is important for both these brands – with many unsatisfied customers venting their anger, a social media customer service strategy is crucial to maintain at least some credibility in the market.
Optus seems to monitor its online Twitter presence very carefully and by doing so it seems they are in at least in some cases turning customer informants into advocates.
Whilst Optus is changing many customer experiences from negative to positive ones, one in particular stands out. In a recent article published in Marketing Magazine, it seems Optus has been able to turn around one #badoptus customer to a satisfied one, who told his 4,268 followers that;
“You may have seen some of my past #badoptus tweets. Thanks to Scott at @Optus social media response team I can now say thank you #goodoptus.”
But have Optus got it 100% right? As Optus only entered the space in the past 4 – 6 weeks, one of the biggest downfalls for their strategy would have to be timing – with so much bad consumer PR being posted online, Optus should have entered the space sooner to effectively manage its reputation and attend to consumers needs.
For Optus coverage may also be an issue. For any brand moving into the social media space it is important to not just to concentrate on the platform but rather consider where consumers are passionately expressing their views, whether it be social networking platforms, forums or even blogs to determine how the customer service strategy can most effectively reach the large pockets of consumer complaints and customer service issues.
For Optus Facebook is another area where consumers are passionately expressing their dissatisfaction about the brand by joining or creating “hate Optus” groups, and this is probably just the beginning. However despite the negative feedback on Facebook, for Optus Twitter may have been the most important channel to tackle first, as the brand had been inundated with negative PR.
Regardless of their approach, for those considering social media customer service it is important to monitor the web and determine where conversations and complaints are occurring about their brand before determining the best approach.
Overall despite some of the improvements that can be made I believe Panasonic, Optus and even Telstra should be applauded for taking the bold step into the social media space.
Got any other examples of Australian organisations who are using social media to improve customer service? If so add them below.