March 12, 2015

Has Social Media Made Customer Service Worse?

Have you noticed how amazingly great customer service has become? Yeah, neither have I.

I don't get it. It seems like the more we are told "the consumer is in control," the worse things get.

Trying to get someone to pay attention to you - or even answer the phone - at a bank, or an airline, or a telecom company, or an insurance company or a... you get the picture... is an experience in emotional suicide.

And yet, if you're like me, you check on these things. Social media venues make it pretty easy to get info on who's good and who's lousy. But it seems like most companies don't really give a shit.

Whereas social media ought to have made businesses very aware of how important it is to treat customers well, all it seems to have done is taught them how to game the system with "war rooms" full of bullshit artists spewing out apologetic tweets and dumbass Facebook updates.

I'm starting to think that despite its promise, social media has actually made most customer service worse. Social media may work to improve service at the local restaurant level, where service has always tended to be pretty good, but at the level of the large entities that we are more and more slaves to, service just continues to get worse.

Companies now apparently believe that they don't really have to treat customers well as long as they have a basement full of interns answering complaints and digi-groveling for forgiveness.

Or maybe there's another answer.

Maybe it's consumers who are full of shit. Maybe consumers really are in control and they've made it clear that they won't pay for good service. Maybe they just go to whomever has the lowest price, regardless of how dismally they're treated.

One thing's for sure -- something's wrong somewhere.


Sell! Sell! said...

I agree Bob. A very real example close to my heart/ass is train service we have over here called Thameslink - it's a truly awful service, but their twitter account makes things even worse; deluded, smarmy and rarely helpful at best, infuriating and patronising at worst.

Parvez Sheik Fareed said...

Same over here.
Customer service of telcos in Switzerland is in many cases utter shit. In
addition to that most of them have a FB page where consumers can
"interact". Several posts of consumers are answered with "Please send us an
email" or even ignored when consumers post an unpleasant experience.

Thameslink said...

I'm really sorry to hear that Sell! Sell! I assure you we are doing all we can to rectify the issue. We hope you have a safe journey and enjoy the rest of your day. Is there anything else I can help you with today? Thameslink

ChrisPollard77 said...

I think the answer is somewhere in between. Big companies are sold the line that all they need are online apologists to make people feel better, AND people (generally, not all-inclusively) don't want to pay a penny more than they have to, still expecting great service. Sadly, the bar for what defines "great" service today has been set so low, most people recognize it for what was basic common courtesy 30 years ago. We're our own worst enemy.

Probably why some of the most successful and well-liked businesses I know are the ones who unapologetically set their own high bar for service, and don't live on the fiscal crack of one BIG STORE-WIDE SALE after the next.


When I need to contact customer service, I post a neat pic to instragram. Then I tweet about my instagram. Then I post all my re-tweets to Facebook. Which I ultimately pin. Then I create a vine about my whole experience with the brand. Which I then post to my blog. Then I share the entire thing my bunk-mates at brand camp (the camp where we all circle-jerk about brands). Then I check all my status' and re-tweets, and re-pins and re-faces. Then usually a few days later I get a response saying, "Sorry to hear your extra-reduction olive oil had a rat head in it. Please contact our customer service at 1-800-777-7878"

George Tannenbaum said...

The other aspect of lousy customer service is that in abandoning regulated markets, we've essentially turned every industry into an oligarchy. And oligarchies are only slightly less bad than monopolies. Verizon knows you can't really go anywhere else. Time-Warner knows the same. As does American airlines. The IRS. Omnicom. etc. Without any real competition, service almost always suffers.

Jeffrey Summers said...

P.S. Thanks for engaging with us. Follow us on 38 different social platforms for more coupons, discounts and other assorted freebies because we really don't have any clue about how to create real value for our customers.

Richard Morris said...

tbf - i stood in my bank a while ago. There was no one there. No one out front. No one behind the screen. Not a single member of staff to be seen. I stood there for 5 minutes with 2 other customers discussing how bizarre this seemed.

Then I tweeted it.

it took less than a minute for the bank to tweet back apologising. and in no time 2 members of staff had appeared, who knew by name, and apologised again

I think thats how social media improves customer service - by getting an immediate response to a problem as it happens

anything else -it's just an excuse to look responsive and actually do nothing

Charlotte said...

Bob, I think you’re almost there: now customer service has been replaced by social media, which is actually PR in the form of a Tweet or a Facebook post. On the surface it LOOKS like they care. But it's abysmal at best. I was one pissed-off Grandma last fall, and generally, folks in my age group
have more time, resources and are much better spellers than the ‘reps’ I encountered. So we should get our point across and be heard, right?

Well, I went the rounds with The Masters of The Logistics Universe at UPS, then I did what anyone with a blog would do. It was much more fun.

No, I don't work there. said...

My midsized company has horrible customer service through the regular old email and phone channels. Overwhelmed, under-motivated, apathetic -- it shows.

In the shadow of that, we created social media channels, and sure enough, all the angry, never-responded to customers are leaping all over our underpaid interns, who only want to post funny marketing stuff, not answer specific product technical inquiries.

So now we've got shit support on every channel! It's brilliant!

LBarr said...

Of course you or one of the other customers there could have gone old school and just knocked on the window or staff door. Would have been faster and required less bandwidth. Are people really that scared of human contact now?

Michael said...

Why do you expect customer service to be great when the
products/services suck? In the market for a new coffee maker, I trotted off to the Mr. Coffee website. Most of the models posted a rating of 1-3 out of five – on their own site! Think they give a rat’s behind?

Besides, as any MBA will tell you, service is an expense not an
investment. So savvy customers rely on crowd-sourced user forums. As dicey as it is, that’s where real customer service takes place. Companies are off the hook. And therein lies the true value of social media.