Eight Reasons Why Social Media Negatively Affects Customer Service and The Customer Experience
There's been so much buzz about how social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) are improving customer service and the customer experience, but is that true?
While there is anecdotal evidence that social media can be used effectively for customer service, ON AVERAGE it's not going to happen.
Customer service is judged as getting worse, and one reason -- in fact a main intermediate cause is that adding social media to the mix ADDS costs to business.
A company that offers poor customer service on their websites, in email, on forums, via telephone, etc, will NEVER improve their service by using social media, because they aren't addressing the root causes.
In fact there's ample empirical and logical evidence to suggest the opposite. One of the reasons why the true effects of technology are lost is that very few of the people analyzing information about social media and customer service know enough about business (from the owner/board/CEO perspective) to integrate what they know about social media with how business works. So, here's some evidence, based on both research and logic that explains why technology, and social media, in particular is not having a positive impact.
The more you intersperse technology between the customer and the company, the more you create complex systems prone to breakdown, and the more you remove the sense of dealing with a human being. Whether the technology is complex voice mail systems or social media, the net effect is to DEPERSONALIZE contact between customer and company.
The assumptions underlying social media and customer service are based on faulty thinking. For example, "being where the customers are" is often put forth as a reason to provide "services via social media. In fact, that's simplistic. The reality is that customers don't care what channel is used to solve their concerns. They want fast, convenient resolution of issues, regardless of channel. You don't need to be where the customers are because they already know how to find you. And, they don't mind going to a website or emailing provided the responses are fast and effective.
1) Companies don't need to add additional contact channels, particularly when the existing channels function so poorly. It doesn't work. A company with poor customer service via email, phone, website will simply end up offering poor customer service on social media. Poor customer service can be made more efficient via social media, for the company,but there are few benefits for the customer.
2) Social media can provide a first contact point to surface problems. That would be a good thing, except that the majority of customer issues cannot be addressed properly on 140 characters, or, for that matter, in a public venue. Therefore, the customer is shunted around even more than before, going from Twitter, to email to phone. It ADDS a layer, or an additional hoop for customers.
3) Despite the haranguing of customer service and social media advocates, research indicates that year after year, customer perceptions of customer service have gotten worse, and yes, that's in the current era of social media. Why? (See next item)
4) Companies know what social media activists don't know -- that you don't have to offer great customer service to keep customers. You only need to be "good enough", so they are not increasing budget or resources to accommodate offering customer service in additional channels. They are spreading limited and scarce resources across more channels. Less resources, more demand does not equal improvement. But wait. How do we know companies can get away with poor or non-existent customer service? Almost all the companies consistently rated as having poor customer service continue to do well, year after year. It's always the same companies rated as worst, and their financials tend to be good, also year after year.
5) Technology and additional channels do not replace other channels of contact, which means higher costs for businesses.
6) Technology does not address the root causes of poor customer service and poor customer experience. When an innovation does not address root causes, it fails, or worse makes things worse. The reasons why companies are getting worse has to do with the way businesses function particularly at the large corporate level where actions are dictated by short term revenue and expenses in service of shareholder value. Share prices always go up (or almost always) when companies slash costs, and go down when expenses rise, often even when revenues rise. Technology does not address this root cause or other root causes in the system of business.
7) Social media and technology, to be profitable, must operate by setting up to handle "routine" issues. Call centers, for example have standardized scripts and processes for customer issues that "fit" the norm. They do not work well with "exceptions" or special cases. Dealing with special cases is expensive. This way of thinking emerges from the assembly line mentality where it may cost more to purchase a car without some things you don't want, because it requires more work, on the part of the seller.
8) Social media support doesn't scale, because, to do it right, you need more people to address higher more demand. The only way it scales is to automate everything, creating more frustration. Almost all online companies (Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter) offer virtually NO live person support, and no personal contact. Social media will not and has not changed that. Why? It's too expensive.
Final Notes On Social Media and Customer Service & Customer Experience
You can argue that you know of some companies who anecdotally, have used social media to serve customers, and done so effectively, and in cost savings ways. Yes, there are some. They aren't the rule and the number is much smaller than you might think. Many of the "success" stories are repeated over and over -- trumpeted, often years after the supposed success.
On top of that the claims often involve numbers that are misinterpreted because the right questions aren't being asked. For that company that saved $100,000 by using social media for customer service, there are lots of questions NOT reported. How did customers feel about that? Did problem resolution happen faster or slower? Did they look for unintended negative consequences?
As a former researcher and statistician, I can tell you that MOST of the research and numbers reported about social media successes are irrelevant, incomplete, misleading or sometimes, just plain wrong. And yes, that includes the numbers coming out of "research companies".
This evidence is almost always biased in favor of the efficacy of social media, thus creating the impression of success, where none truly exists.
The bottom line summary:
- Customer perceptions of customer service have worsened and do so year after year, even with social media.
- When you look at social media within a business context -- the context used in the boardrooms and C-level offices in companies, you'll realize that social media will not receive the extra resources to make it work, because the costs are prohibitive.
- Finally, use your own experience. On average, has social media improved YOUR experiences? Sometimes, maybe. On average, probably not.