We are facebook's trained monkeys

We are facebook's trained monkeys

Social media trains us to share our experiences online, to fill those inviting comment boxes with just a quick word or two. The result is often a plague of banalities – ‘I just ate lunch’, ‘looking forward to the weekend!'.

Bad news travels fast

But there is a power in sharing and being shared that business cannot afford to ignore. And few things motivate sharing more than a feeling of having been wronged.

Your business's customer service failures will end up as someone's status update. The wrong story shared at the wrong time can result in a blizzard of likes, shares, retweets and recommends.

The publicity generated, for example, by hitting the front page of Reddit is massive - thousands, maybe millions of readers. And these threads can often be echo chambers: if others herd in with similar experiences then the dissenting or moderating voice may be lost amid a sea of negativity. 

A humorous, satirical skit about the state of cable providers in the U.S begets a massively negative discussion about the companies concerned. 

Cable companies are, perhaps, too large (and too dominant) to be worried.

But such activity - it seems like these companies can barely go a week without negatively impacting the front page - suggests a burgeoning consenus: cable providers bad, google fiber good.

Griping in two clicks or less

Ecommerce is particularly vulnerable because the same convenience which makes online shopping so attractive in the first place also applies to the act of complaining about that experience. Moaning is as simple as opening a new tab.

A confusing website, slow response time to queries, lack of email payment confirmation – perhaps you just lose one customer, perhaps, if they share their experience over social media, you lose many more, as friends of the sharer mentally un-tick your business - 'won't be using them!'.

The big, big upside

But social media is also a tremendous opportunity. The positive experience can be shared just as easily as the negative one. Fantastic customer service can even convert customers into brand ambassadors – people who will do some of the busywork of marketing for you, posting your press releases, tweets, etc on their profiles, walls and tumblrs without encouragement.

JDRucker at Soshable notes that such activity must rank higher than a review on something like Google Local. Social media is personal. A recommendation from a friend carries more weight, is trusted more than a gaggle of anonymous reviews and testimonials, which might, after all, be inventions. When a person ties a recommendation to a personal profile we instinctively accord it more worth – there’s more at stake.

You’re not going to make a loyal fan out of every customer but it doesn't hurt to try.

Some businesses have been slow to learn this lesson, particularly in e-commerce. Shoppers are less and less satisfied with internet shopping but more and more willing shop online. Ruinous PR is being generated on a daily basis.

There are, of course, companies that have generated tremendous online goodwill. The ongoing love affair between the internet and Taco Bell is a great example. The genius or geniuses behind Taco Bell’s twitter account have seen their tweets regularly land on Reddit’s front page (Taco Bell even has its own subreddit). Buzzfeed writes articles about their best tweets. 

Taco Bell, just through twitter, generates a host of brand ambassadors on a daily basis.

Amazon’s customer service is legendary. For eight straight years Amazon has taken the No.1 spot in ForSee’s survey of online shoppers.

My own experiences with Amazon have been very positive. After an issue with an incorrect order which they dealt with very quickly, I wrote them a short email just to say how prompt and satisfactory I had found their customer service over the years. I did not expect a reply. And yet a few days later I received a personal response from a line manager thanking me for my comments. A small gesture but one that really resonated with me – and here I am, passing on that experience over a form of social media. 

Amazon has made me an evangelist for their service and I'm only slightly ashamed about that fact. 

Learn from the best

Great customer service, which must include interacting with customers over social media, is, by itself, a chance to generate brand loyalty and brand awareness.

You never know when someone might share a positive or negative story.

Got a great customer service love/horror story? Share in the comment section below.

Image courtesy of Tambako the Jaguar, flickr
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