social customer serviceThere seems to be no shortage of stories lately about social customer service gone awry. By now you probably heard of last month’s incident with a Southwest airlines passenger and his two children asked to deboard their flight due to a Tweet he posted. This week, a story broke of how The Union Street Guest House in New York charges wedding clients $500 for every bad review posted online by their guests. They do list this fine in their online policy, and agree to provide you a refund if the nasty review is taken down. Is it just me or do you feel that somehow these companies missed the golden rule of, “the customer is always right”.

This customer service statement was branded almost a century ago by successful retailers Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker, and Marshall Field – and it should still stand true today! These customer experience pioneers advocated that customer complaints should be treated seriously and that employees should give high priority to customer satisfaction.

So as I hear, “the customer is always right,” what can we learn from these two bad examples of social customer service.

  1. Responding is Important

A timely response is important when it comes to social customer service, especially in the airline and hospitality industry. Customers expect that you be available to provide service 24×7. According to recent an article in Mobile Marketer, when it comes to customer engagement most airlines are still having one-way conversations over social media. The article states that some airlines only have a 0.3% response rate to social media customer service comments and questions. In the case of Southwest Airlines, I am impressed with the speed of the response from a social monitoring perspective, but not with how they responded. This takes me to my next learning.

  1. Social Media Training a Must

Every company should have a social media policy in place that clearly outlines how employees are to handle their involvement with business-related social media. Because of the very public view and ability to escalate quickly in the media, companies need to make an extra effort in training employees and providing rules of engagement, especially when it comes to customer service. It is important to create a social media training program that demonstrates to employees how using social media can be a valuable business tool, turn them into “brand ambassadors” and even drive enhanced performance and creativity.

  1. A Complaint Can Reflect Positively

We all expect that companies will make mistakes from time to time. It is how they respond that is often most important to the customer experience. When a response is made in social media millions are watching, especially if a complaint is involved like the Southwest Airlines situation. Many of us derive confidence when we see how companies handle themselves with other customers, which translates to brand loyalty. I know from my perspective it provides me reassurance that assistance will be available in my time of need and that I am a valued customer.

Learn more about moving social media beyond marketing and into social customer service in our white paper, Bridging the Great Divide:Best Practices for Integrating Social Media and Customer Service.