There are hundreds of social media networks receiving millions of hits every day ranging from ones targeting young children e.g. Habbo to the global players like Facebook, Twitter & Google+. Whilst not every one of these users may be your customer now, they may become one in the future, and what they see or hear about your organization on social media sites may influence them in the future. There is a saying that is going around the customer service Directors of global organizations - "Social Media - ignore it at your peril"!

One of the "dangers" of social media these days is that millions of mere "mortals" can follow their celebrities online & see what they are tweeting about; however these celebrities are normal customers like you & me and  if your organization does not offer excellent customer service 100% of the time and you do not deliver to the celebrity then millions of followers will know instantaneously. The reason people resort to social media to complain is that they do not get a satisfactory resolution via the normal customer service channels i.e. the contact centre. Waiting in queues, being put on hold, being transferred, unskilled agents & eventually the "wrong answer" will lead to this bad experience being shared on the social media sites. Therefore before even considering how an organization should become integrated with these networking sites it is essential that your contact centre offers excellent customer service every day.

Unfortunately unless they are a very regular customer it is very difficult to tell when a premier league footballer, a chart topping artist or a major television personality is calling in to order a mobile phone, buy some clothes or check their utility bill, yes they are normal people, and  you need to treat all of your customers as a potential celebrity. I will discuss customer service excellence in a future blog but will now just focus on social media & customer service. Okay, some day things do go wrong & you may have an unhappy customer who starts to tweet on how badly they have been treated or uploads a video on of an experience they have witnessed. If your customer service teams are not aware of these postings & they remain unanswered then irrevocable damage can be done. Therefore it is necessary to use the main social media networks as if they were just another inbound communication channel into your contact centre like a phone call or an email.

There are many tools in the market place that can deliver this integrated communication channel which can then be monitored to check for the "bad tweet". If it does happen then your organization needs to respond quickly to repair the damage & make the irate customer feel so good that they start posting positive messages. I follow a celebrity broadcaster on Twitter and last night he was flying on a business flight on United Airlines for six hours. His final tweet before departing was "On a new United plane but they have no entertainment even in first class - going to be a very long flight". As one of his 2 million plus followers I will check very carefully if I was to take the same airline in the future.

But it is not all doom & gloom, you can use the social networks to post good news, offers, exciting stories about your organization - future customers will use these networks to evaluate a company & see what has been written and if it is good news then you may gain a new customer.