Forbes Magazine has a great article on how major companies are just not ‘getting it’ when it comes to Facebook and social media.
Dealing with customers on social sites reveals "a fundamental shift in customer service," March says. Complaints used to be viewed as a nuisance, but ignoring dissatisfaction on Facebook and Twitter can go viral and trigger a steady exodus of customers. "Companies can’t afford to ignore people," he says.
Just putting up a business Page on Facebook is not enough to show the public that you are ‘hip’ and ‘groovy’; you need to listen to them, engage with them and solve their problems, too.
Sending complaints via social networks empowers the customer. If a company ignores a respondent in a public forum like a Facebook wall, friends may respond and gravitate to more attentive retailers.
Make no mistake, angry customers can do serious damage. March cites a loyal Sears customer who spent $5,000 annually on tools but was denied a replacement because one tool broke 31 days after it was purchased, a day after the warranty ended. March says the customer blasted Sears on its Facebook page, ripped up his Sears credit card, and vowed that he would never shop there again. A Sears’ customer service rep read the customer’s note, shipped him a new tool, and included a gift card. Reassured, the customer took out a new Sears’ card.
The online listening and problem-solving takes particular skills and don’t expect that you can throw just any employee at the task. Not only do they need good facilitation, negotiation and communication skills, they also need the AUTHORITY to take action on behalf of the company.
The ad-hoc approach does not work, so companies should either train their staff to work in this environment or go out and hire a social marketing team. Firms also need to have clear policies on who can address customer service issues on their own and when a manager is needed.
If you are planning to engage in social media, ensure you get professional advice on what resources you are going to need; you don’t want to end up with egg on your face.