How Can You Serve Your Customers “Where They Are” On Social Media, When They Are Everywhere?

When customers can be anywhere on the Internet, it makes no sense to “serve them where they are”, and it’s costly and wasteful.

How Can You Serve Your Customers “Where They Are” On Social Media, When They Are Everywhere?

Q: One of the exhortations I read about customer service and social media is that companies should serve their customers “where they are”, and since they are on social media, that’s where companies should be. What’s your opinion on that?

Robert: I think it shows a very poor grasp of what customers want, customer service within a business context, and beyond that it’s really awfully silly when you think about it for more than two seconds.

Q: Silly? How so?

Robert: Any company is going to have customers from all of the major social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and about fifty other popular and semi-popular platforms. That means that its customers are everywhere. Is the idea to be on ALL those platforms, because that’s where you have customers?

Q: Well, I don’t know. The saying suggests yes, but clearly that’s not what companies are doing. Are you saying there’s no need to be “where the customer is”?

Robert: I’m saying that for customer service it’s not necessary, and not only that, it’s way too costly to support multiple platforms. But here’s the explanation.

If you are doing straight marketing to produce sales, the wider your exposure the better. Repetition is at the core of marketing. You want to be everywhere there are potential eyeballs. Customer service is different. And those making these silly kinds of statements don’t understand that social media is not like a bricks and mortar store. With bricks and mortar your location is critical. If customers can’t get there, or its inconvenient you are in trouble.

With social media, your customers can get to anywhere you are “located” with relative ease, often with a click or two. In effect your customers may be “in certain places” but they can magically teleport themselves to another place, almost instantaneously. Location is largely irrelevant, and customers don’t care about what channel they use to get help. They just want help, fast and conveniently.

Q: So, are you suggesting that a company wouldn’t lose anything by supporting ONE social media platform, or even ignoring them, when it comes to customer service?

Robert: Pretty much. Here’s what customers actually do when they want service online. First they go to the company website. They might look for a knowledge base or an FAQ, but once they are there, you can direct them to any platform you want (within reason). They won’t care, PROVIDED you serve them quickly and efficiently. Do you think a customer who wants help with his new television is going to care if he can’t get that help on Twitter, provided he gets a company response quickly? Is he going to say: “Hey, thanks for solving my problem within 5 minutes of my asking the question, but hey, I’m not doing business with you because you won’t “serve me” on Twitter”? That’s not how it works.

Q: But isn’t it more convenient for the customer to use whatever way s/he chooses to be served? Isn’t that important?

Robert: Some argue that. I don’t think it is that important, again, because the convenience factor is so small, because switching channels is so trivial. if I’m on a Facebook page, and want support, why would I complain if I have to send an email. Particularly when I get an email response back in less than five minutes?

Q: Are there exceptions?

Robert: Sure, we have to be reasonable. If a company has NO online presence, and people have to phone (and be put on hold), or email, and then have to wait, or go to the physical location, that’s going to impact on business. People want the convenience of communicating from their computer, or phone, but they do NOT need the convenience of choosing between Twitter and Facebook. The bottom line is quality service.

In fact, there’s some research to suggest that customers are already feeling overwhelmed by choices, so while it’s intuitively sensible to offer them ten options for getting their questions answered, it’s probably not a good business practice.

Q: So, can you summarize?

Robert: Your customers are everywhere, and in a sense, nowhere. They can get to you online and it’s easy, so there’s not a major inconvenience if they can’t contact you on Twitter.

  • Pick ONE or TWO contact methods, and do them as perfectly as you can.
  • Don’t split your efforts.
  • Respond fast on the channels you choose, and solve the problems, and you will not lose a single customer as a result of not serving them on “their favorite platform”.

Author: Robert Bacal

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