Customer Service via Social Media Must Match Traditional Channels

More and more companies enable customers to interact with their brand using social media channels. Some companies successfully realize that customers have different expectations on social media than other channels.

Many of these differences have been well discussed and highlighted by prominent thought leaders like Shep Hyken (see his recent story at Forbes). In a well working organization public interactions on social media with customers should not get a special treatment over traditional support channels. I have taken two examples from my own stories below that highlight this double standard.

I wanted to sell my old T-Mobile smartphone on eBay a few months ago (which - by the way - I paid full price for). I realized that I may get a few more dollars for the phone if I can sell it unlocked. T-Mobile customer service, however, insisted that I needed to have a T-Mobile SIM card before they would consider performing this service (as they do not track their devices by IMEI numbers). As I no longer had the original SIM card for the phone, I ordered one. I called customer service again - they refused to unlock the phone saying that I had to have a balance on the SIM card. I was furious and informed support that I would talk to the social media customer service for resolution. After venting my frustration publicly, T-Mobile social media team resolved my issue within an hour and I finally got my unlocked phone. All I can say is that shame on you, T-Mobile. Public embarrassment is the only way this issue has come to a happy ending.

I have written about my experience with Citi service issues on this blog before. This company is also an example where traditional support channels don’t get the same attention as social media. I would never have thought that after my public rant on Twitter, I would actually get a phone call from Citi to discuss and resolve my concerns. Traditional channels (phone, website, secure e-mail) did not help. Twitter did the trick.

I strongly believe that successful companies will provide a uniform experience across all their support channels and tailor their programs according to channel-specific expectations. Businesses should properly allocate resources for each and every support channel, and not favor one over the other. Failing to do so will disenfranchise customers who may not want to or able to use the latest support channel of the day to resolve customer service issues.