So you've embraced social media for your business. You might have even gone about it like this:

  • You have a grand social media plan that involves building a community, engaging stakeholders in your brand, and servicing your clients and prospects where they're now spending their time.
  • You set up all kinds of social media accounts, taking the time to find the right user name and build out your profiles.
  • You assigned responsibility for these accounts to an individual or group of individuals. You may even have created a new position and hire for this role; or perhaps you think it's even better to outsource it.
  • You started cranking away by generating new content, engaging with your consumers and attempting to measure how all of this social media effort affects your bottom line.

That's all great in theory, but as history and research has already proven: Just because you set yourself up to deliver service to your customers digitally doesn't mean that you've actually built a better mousetrap.

Social Media Raises the Bar

The recent Global Customer Service Barometer study conducted by American Express tells it best:  "Social media raises the stakes for customer service." The good news: Social media savvy consumers who are happy with a company's customer service say they'd spend 21% more with those companies (compared with an average consumer, who'd only spend 13% more).

But here's the downside: 83% of social media savvy consumers have also walked away from an intended purchase because of poor customer service, compared with just 55% of the general population.

Social media savvy consumers also tell more people about both good and bad customer service experiences than ordinary consumers. And yet more than 61% of Americans feel companies have not increased their focus on providing better service–and are, in fact, getting worse at it.

For Americans who have used social media for customer service, American Express identifies these "Social Top 5" activities:

  • 50% seek an actual response from a company about a service
  • 48% praise a company for a great service experience
  • 47% share information about a customer service experience with a wider audience
  • 46% vent frustration about a poor service experience
  • 43% ask other users how to have better service experiences

It's Easy to Look Bad on Social Media

Little mistakes are all too easy for the social media newcomer. Perhaps in your haste to get social, you set up a Facebook brand page but didn't make it publicly accessible; or placed social media icons on your website but drove people to an empty page.

These kinds of faux pas only make you look sloppy and stupid, particularly in the mind of your more social media savvy customers; you don't want to turn them off permanently. Worse still, these customers may share your hapless ways with their social media connections, thereby amplifying your problemall without ever having had direct contact with you!

Bad customer service can be as benign as not paying attention to your social media mentions and comments (good or bad): Users like to feel like someone's minding the shop, so to speak. The tardy response can also create problems for your public image.

Any of these scenarios can quickly morph into a publicly visible customer service complaint.

And then there are the social media horror stories. The bigger the brand, the greater the likelihood for social "tattling," because who doesn't like to see a giant brand goof up these days?

No Excuses

Look at all the ways you can initiate or deliver customer service online:

  • Live chat
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Toll-free number
  • A website form
  • Email
  • Comment on blog

With all these options, ultimately, you really cannot make excuses for delivering poor customer service in the digital space. But when you get it right, the praise you receive will be worth it.