Regardless of industry, there seems to be a disparity in how companies respond to customer complaints online. Some do a great job of addressing customer issues on Twitter, but some of these same companies seem unwilling to respond to complaints on Facebook.
According to Edison Research, social media now reaches the majority of Americans over the age of 12, with 52% having a profile on one or more social networks. Twitter is as familiar to Americans as Facebook (with 92% and 93% familiarity, respectively); however, Twitter usage stands at 8% of Americans 12 years and older.
So if Facebook is more widely used, why are companies giving customers the cold shoulder on Facebook? The airline industry is notorious for ignoring customer complaints on Facebook. Most of the major carriers have the following statements posted on the info section of their Facebook page:
While it is becoming more common for customers to seek out service online, it seems that companies are not willing or equipped to handle service issues on Facebook. In contrast, Twitter is growing as a channel for customer service as more individuals and businesses sign up for Twitter, and also as customers are more successful at getting their issues resolved via Twitter instead of traditional communications channels.
There are several advantages to using Twitter for customer service–it is real-time and provides an easy way to search for customer mentions/complaints that can be addressed or replied to very quickly. Customers spend a lot of time on the phone on hold and companies can save both time and money by using alternative channels to communicate with current and potential customers. Twitter also makes it easy for customers to share their gripes, as well as their positive experiences, with all the people in their network. Let’s be realistic–how many people have a good customer service experience on the phone and then call their friends to tell them about it?
All of Twitter’s advantages hold true for Facebook–it is also real-time (companies would know as soon as anyone posted anything on their wall) and complaints are also easy to track and can be replied to in the same amount of time it takes to reply on Twitter. It’s basically the same concept–just a different platform. So if a company has a dedicated person or team to address customer service issues on Twitter, why can’t they do the same on Facebook?
A recent study by the Harvard Business Review found that two important benefits of using social media are to increase favorable perceptions of a company/organization and its products and services and to identify service opportunities. It can also reduce business costs (provided that a significant number of your customers are on Twitter and Facebook). But none of these goals can be accomplished if customer complaints are left unacknowledged on company Facebook pages.
A lot of businesses (like the airlines) view their Facebook page as a billboard for their company–something static that distributes a message in the outbound direction only. When in fact, they should be thinking of it as an interactive community where customer complaints are not only heard, but acknowledged and resolved immediately. Every touch point is an opportunity to make a good impression on customers, especially on such a high-visibility platform like Facebook. Turnover is so quick on Twitter that a complaint gets exposure for a few hours, but a complaint on a company’s Facebook wall is permanent (unless deleted) and more visible for others to read over and over again.
Here’s an example of the same company (Southwest) addressing a customer complaint on Twitter but ignoring a complaint on Facebook:
And here are just two examples of many customer complaints ignored on Facebook:
Here’s an example of the way complaints should be addressed on Facebook, however, Delta made the mistake of deleting the first part of this customer’s complaint, making an angry customer even angrier.
Sometimes your largest protesters can become advocates with a little bit of care and attention. If you don’t provide some source of customer service on both Facebook and Twitter or redirect to someone who can help, you’re risking your company’s reputation.