In Which CNN Misses The Point

Last month CNN published an article online in which they compared and contrasted the level of customer service they experienced from 8 different companies on Twitter, on the Phone and via email. Their conclusion was that Twitter didn’t provide the excellent customer service that people rave about.

Duh. Of course not, and for two reasons:

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1. Social Media Customer Service is incredibly difficult to scale, and creates a problem solving issues in “real time” when the number of people coming to Twitter for help becomes more than the person/people handling that account can deal with “instantly”; and

2. No company I know of uses Twitter alone for their customer support. Speaking from experience, trying to handle all of your customer service complaints through Twitter would eventually drive you crazy, and I’m talking Daffy Duck crazy. Most companies will use social channels to either start the CS process or usher the customer to one of their dedicated CS channels.

And that’s the larger issue here – none of these companies are using any of their outlets in isolation – they’re simply positioning themselves to be available wherever their customers need them. Frank Elliason had the power of Comcast’s CS tools at his disposal, so he could get things done for customers as quickly as possible. It took a person like Frank being in the right place at the right time to do that. He saw people complaining about his company online and had the presence of mind to say “we ought to do something about that”. Did he solve all of Comcast’s problems? No. Did he make phone support better? Not necessarily. Did he pave the way for a more integrated approach to customer service? Absolutely, and that is the key.

If you’re communicating with your customers, they’ll know where to go and what to expect when they have an issue. The strength of that promise in comparison to the consumer’s expectations and the extent to which those promises are delivered on makes up the company’s CS reputation as a whole, no matter how it decides to handle support. Social media has created more and more outlets for customer feedback, which in turn demands that the companies occupy these channels as well. If you’re a hotel or restaurant, you want to have a presence on Yelp! and so you can mitigate issues and address criticism publicly so that future customers can feel secure in your ability to solve problems. For a company like Comcast, Frank was simply seeing where the complaints were and addressing them in the same place.

Whether or not that happens is really a function of how skilled and how dedicated the people behind those CS channels are. What all of the companies from the article (and all companies, really) are trying to do is exceed those expectations and promise the consumer the quickest possible support. At least they should be, because I’ve experienced exceptional customer service and terrible customer service, and both experiences made me want to tell people about them. The real question is, what kind of experience is YOUR company providing?

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