After a few bad experiences by their writers, TechCrunch is calling out this “scandal of toothless social media representatives” and demanding that it ends “now.” Seems some companies have figured out that rather than use Twitter to solve people’s customer service complaints, they can just use it to get you to shut up. Here’s how it works.
See, what happens is a company sets up a Twitter account with their company name on it. Twitterers can direct their complaints to it with @ replies and/or the people running the account can actively search for folks complaining on Twitter. Then the account says to the complainer, “oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. Please direct message me your contact info and I’ll look into it.” So the complainer sends over the info. Then nothing happens.
The rep doesn’t actually have any access to the customer’s info. They’re not actually integrated into the customer service structure. They’re just some outside marketing firm with no real power at their client’s company.
By asking the user to “direct message” the information, it takes the conversation out of public view. A decent percentage of those people will stop publicly tweeting. Either they forget/get too lazy to take that extra step, or they want to be honorable and give the company a chance without publicly bashing them, or they otherwise get sucked into dealing with the social media decoy.
Now they can always take their campaign back to Twitter and other medium, but a decent number will give up. Which is exactly what these companies want. Connecting with their customers in a new and immediate way sounds great at conferences, but mostly what they’re after is to get customer to stop publicly complaining. Solving their problems is one way to do that. An even cheaper way is to just pretend that you’ll solve their problem and whoever doesn’t go away, just ignore. Boom, you have the same level of crappy customer service as before, but you have far fewer people complaining about it. Well done.
Companies that actually give a damn can’t just outsource these operations to disposable third parties who all they do is just forward the complaint to the usual circular filing system that is the customer service box. Because eventually bad players will be outed, and they will be punished in the marketplace, either by their customers or by their competitors who know how to use actual customer service on Twitter to build and rebuild customer loyalty, spread positive word of mouth, and increase sales over time.
The hard work needs to be done to beef up internal teams who are equipped with customer account access and attached to a triage system for dealing with issues. If you’re a corporate bird who wants to change its colors by getting jiggy with Twitter, you won’t get there by keeping your head in the sand.
The Scandal Of Toothless Social Media Representatives Ends… Now [Tech Crunch] (Thanks to Alex!)