How not to do customer service on social media

How not to do customer service on social media

Recently I had a horrible experience with a service sector company – I wanted them to fix the problem, sort things out and treat me nicely – so far none of this has happened.

In frustration at drawing a blank with the usual channels, I checked out whether I could engage with them via social media. I quickly found they had Twitter and Facebook accounts and I found them on a range of online rating sites. A successful Linkedin request to their chairperson gave me an email and mobile number.  So quite a significant digital footprint, plus a flashy website.

My various attempts to engage with them both directly (LinkedIn message) and publically (Twitter and Facebook plus feedback on rating sites) drew a complete blank. A big fat no response. In contrast when I tweeted a company they are accredited with, they responded to me straight away – friendly, helpful and even tweeted a thank you to me for following them – I immediately felt warmly disposed towards them.

When I rang the chairperson on their mobile, they told me plainly that they never respond to electronic communications and if people want to contact them they should do so by phone. When I mentioned social media they shouted at me and told me how much they hated Twitter (although funnily enough they do have a personal account). I was stunned that anyone in business can think it is acceptable to blithely ignore communication channels they themselves have set up. It’s a bit like installing a letter box, but refusing to open your letters, whilst omitting to tell people who write to you that they have to come round in person if they want a response.

This really got me thinking about our NHS social media corporate social media accounts, and related accounts such as Patient Opinion, where increasingly people are engaging with us to give feedback about our services.

In my situation I felt powerless and frustrated and wanted to be listened and responded to. This is how some people who use our services feel. And if people don’t get a decent response they hope for in person, then who can blame them for talking about it to friends, family and even their networks on platforms like Twitter.

If organisations are occupying social media spaces then they really do need to be prepared to engage with people.  Only have a Twitter account if you are going to monitor it and if you are willing to interact. Explain whatever boundaries for interaction you have in place (for example, the Samaritans do this well on Twitter). Respond quickly to concerns and take them offline to discuss fully. Otherwise it is probably better not to have an account at all. The dilemma of course is that if you don’t have one, your customers will be in those spaces talking about you anyway, and you just won’t know. Can organisations afford to bury their heads in the sand?

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  1. A very interesting read Victoria, thanks.

  2. Great post! Always an advocate of people are talking about you anyway, even if you aren’t occupying that space…time to listen…

  3. Totally agree Victoria, I have just left Local Government where the situation is generally similar. One of the biggest issues there is staff access to Social Media. In the majority of LA’s access to Sociall Media sites is blocked so employees are unable to see the messages their own organisation are putting out. This short sighted policy makes interaction impossible so in effect they have a digital post box but refuse to open any letters. I’m currently working on Social Media training for Public Sector Professionals which will hopefully start to engender a more enlightened approach. Pete

  4. This is a great article Victoria, at Daniels Healthcare we have recently set up Facebook and Twitter accounts to give our customers the opportunity to communicate by these mediums. We have found it a brilliant way to engage with our customers and build strong relationships.


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