April 7, 2014 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
As social media evolves, it’s starting to seep into other departments. No longer are the Twitter and Facebook accounts run by a lone social manager who pours over analytics and Tweets replies to fans throughout the business day. These sites are monitored 24/7 by customer service representatives deep in the trenches.
A recent article by the Washington Post highlighted the ways airlines are taking advantage of social media. In particular, United Airlines has a team of twelve Twitter representatives who each sit with two monitors and help as many travelers as possible. One monitor is for keeping up with the streams of customer needs and the other is for solving them. Oftentimes, tweeting a problem to a customer service rep is faster, easier, and eliminates the time spent waiting on hold through the phone lines.
Back in January, we covered how airlines handled customer service during the various polar vortexes and apocalypse-inducing blizzards that swept across the country. Most of them handled the situation poorly because he customer service and content teams failed to communicate.
Throughout the storms and amidst thousands of cancellations, the marketing departments of multiple airlines maintained their regular posting schedules. While hundreds of travelers posted complaints on Delta’s Facebook page, Delta was enthusiastically posting about the Downton Abbey premiere and its cheap flights to England. While United was on top of its game in the social media field, its regularly-scheduled blog content was hawking souvenir mint tins.
The marketing department and customer service teams needed to be on the same page in order to stop the regularly scheduled content during a crisis and start creating customer service-related posts.
As much as the marketing department tries to stay involved with the goings-on at the company, it’s hard to keep up with all of the issues, updates, and opportunities. In some instances, the marketing and PR departments are the last to know about a problem, and have to track down several different people to get information and form a plan. This isn’t necessarily the marketing department’s fault, or the fault of the other parts of the company, but due to lack of communication and set protocols for handling the situation.
Marketing is also ill-equipped to handle the day-to-day customer service questions and complaints that many companies have started receiving on social media A customer complaint leaves a poor intern or marketing rep running around calling five different departments – who all have their own problems – trying to rectify a complaint or answer an obscure question. Someone in a customer service position would know who to call, have the right answer, or form a solution from previous experience.
Finally, the content posted by the marketing department is rarely helpful. Its crisis posts are usually limited to forwarding on the customer service email address and phone number while apologizing for the problems.
Large companies with multiple customer service problems (airlines, banks, cable providers, etc.) have created separate Twitter accounts for brand tweets and customer service solutions. I might angrily tweet to @McDonalds, but @Reachout_mcd would reply and offer solutions to my problems. This means the feeds of fans aren’t cluttered with the tweets of representatives trying to find solutions, and marketing can happily tweet promotions and contests.
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds) April 7, 2014
@katy_cargo Hi, sorry about your order! Can you help us improve by providing the location in this link http://t.co/h5duNeCrHU? Thx
— McD Customer Service (@Reachout_mcd) January 14, 2014
In the case of McDonalds, its customer service feed is open between 7:00am to 7:00pm CST. This creates a 12-hour window to address problems that occurred overnight and solve as many as possible during the day.
The McDonalds customer service window also assures Twitter users that they’re not talking to a bot. Bank of America was in trouble recently because the customer service autoreply was triggered every time someone Tweeted to the account. It showed customers that Bank of America wasn’t actually listening and had set up Twitter as a technicality.
Social media isn’t just for customer service and marketing, it’s also used by the human resources department to scout for employees and the sales department to find leads and announce promotions. As Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms evolve in their formats and uses, more companies and departments will realize their value and utilize them to their maximum potential.
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