As companies big and small continue to move into social media to support other marketing and PR efforts, they’re hiring social media managers to help lead the way. These social media managers and other folks they bring on can do a lot to help companies interact more directly with customers and other groups they want to reach. But there’s also another side to the story.
Over the last few months I’ve interacted with quite a few companies via social media outlets (mostly Twitter) as a customer. More often then not I notice that their social media reps do a good job of monitoring conversations and getting in touch. They also do a good job at soothing upset customers and promising to have issues fixed. That may give the company a temporary reprieve from the negative feedback online resulting from other customer service issues, but I noticed companies are missing an important element of effective use of social media — empowerment.
How Good Social Media Managers Become Customer Service Nightmares
It’s great when a social media manager or other rep for a company reaches out to customers via social media channels. It’s like saying “we care about your problem, we’re really listening, and we want to help.” And that’s an important part of an effective social media plan.
The problem is that some businesses and the social media folks they hire forget that a social media manager isn’t just an individual — they speak for the company. They’ll make promises and show concern. They’ll make customers feel better about the business. And that makes the following bitch slap sting even more — when customer service, tech support, or others within a company essentially say “sorry, but it doesn’t matter what our social media folks said; we’re not going to do anything to help you.”
Not only does the social media manager not solve the problem, but they make it worse. It’s bad enough to have an angry customer. It’s much worse to re-ignite their fury after you’ve promised to fix an issue. And still I find time and time again that social media managers have no real authority. They’re not empowered to go from interacting with customers to actually getting things done.
I’ve seen exceptions too. But in those cases it’s rarely a dedicated social media person using these tools to interact with customers. Instead social media is integrated into other departments and responsibilities for its use are put on those who are actually empowered to make high level decisions and directly assist customers — like support managers.
Converting a Social Media Strategy into Better Customer Service
What’s the solution? I think it’s time to stop hiring dedicated social media managers unless you’re prepared to empower them to make things happen in other departments (something I can’t see going over well in some cases). And I think it’s time companies started getting more of their high-level employees involved in their social media efforts — people who really do speak for the company rather than just knowing what to say to gloss over an issue, and people who can turn promises into actions.
What’s your experience from the customer perspective? Have you run into these powerless social media folks who can talk a good game but not get anything useful done on your behalf? Or have you had different experiences? What do you think should be done about the problems that exist already, and who would you like to see in charge of a company’s social media efforts? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.