All Channels Should Be (Somewhat) Equal–Even Social

We had a startup give an interesting demo at our Spring TSIA Vision Award contest, showing that a customer had a long hold time reaching service using the 1-800 number, so they Tweeted about it and got instant help. I wasn’t overly kind to the CEO when I gave my comments on his demo. Since then, I’ve seen 2 or 3 demos from multichannel vendors expanding more into social channels, and they show the very same use case:  a customer unhappy with service in one channel complains via a social channel and then the issue is instantly resolved.

It finally occurred to me why these demos irritate me so much, and here it is:  all channels should be created equal. My position on adding new customer support channels is that opening up a new channel is like dynamiting a hole in the side of your corporate headquarters:  you’ve just opened a new door for customers. You already have multiple doorways open for customers, and from a customer’s point of view, they should have identical treatment from you regardless of which “hole in the side of the building” they decide to enter. If you are giving amazing service by one channel, and horrible service by another channel, you either need to fix the broken channel or start bricking that hole up.

Social media SHOULD NOT BE the route customers can take when you mistreat them by traditional channels. To suggest there’s a secret back door to get around your policies and procedures…and your hold queue…only creates mistrust with customers, who will be convinced they can always do an end run around your policies.

The Service Revolutions demo that stuck in my craw was the perfect example. In the demo scenario, the customer was told there was a 20 minute hold time for a phone agent, but apparently there were plenty of social media agents sitting twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do because they immediately resolved the issue via Twitter. Let me be clear. When I’m running a call center, and phone hold times are up to 20 minutes, EVERY WARM BODY IN THAT CENTER will be taking calls, managers included…myself included.

Social media/social service providers, there are so many great use cases for interacting with customers via social channels, why do you keep showing customers using social service to avoid traditional service? That isn’t helping companies understand how to use the tools, and it immediately implies a hierarchy that cool, social savvy customers deserve faster service than your moribund phone-centric customers. This is not the message I want to send to any of my customers. Ever.

If you want to route some interactions differently, such as sending your premiere customers to the head of the queue, knock yourself out. Use telephony to recognize the customer and route the call, email or chat record differently. Use rules to set all incidents from a premiere customer at a higher priority. But don’t arbitrarily prioritize an entire channel over another. You are setting a bad precedent.

Explore posts in the same categories: Best Practices, customer support, Enterprise Support, social media, Technology

2 Comments on “All Channels Should Be (Somewhat) Equal–Even Social”

  1. Andy Mc Says:

    So true, John. Just shared this on our fb page. But now I feel guilty — to be fair to all channels I better put it in our customer newsletter as well 🙂

  2. BW Says:

    BUT….if resources are limited (as they always are), new technologies such as social channel interactions are MUCH more efficient AND you can get faster throughput with the agents AND your solution can be leveraged for a future answer…

    Of course it depends on what you are selling/supporting but I think if you WANT to pivot your customers to the new support tools for the benefit of both parties, using the “reward” of better service seems like an acceptable strategy.

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