Social Media Column: Business, social media and customer service

Published in the February 19, 2013 issue of The Edmonton Sun.

Linda’s social media column can be found every Tuesday in the Edmonton Sun.

Business, social media and customer service

Complaining about bad service has never been easier – or more public.

These days, many turn to social media to write about their good or bad experiences.

When it’s good, it’s great.

I’ll often tweet about positive service and great food at local restaurants.

Using the right hashtags ensures my message gets to more people and the restaurant itself will even be directly notified, giving them the option of sharing the positive feedback to their own followers.

But when it’s bad, it can be painful to watch unfold.

Last week my Twitter feed exploded with complaints to EPCOR over a service problem that a local woman was having. It only took a few hours for the original complaint to snowball.

Social media consultant Walter Schwabe was monitoring the progression of complaints, noting that hundreds of tweets had been made in just hours, with the tweets reaching more than 100,000 unique users.

“Today’s communications enables one person to potentially take down a Fortune 500 company in 72 hours or less,” Schwabe said.

It’s a good reminder of how businesses need to be searching the web to see what people are saying and, when they do find a compliment or a complaint, respond.

“It’s not ‘if’ but ‘when’ a complaint will arise online,” Schwabe said.

After the recent complaints, I reached out to EPCOR about their social media practices in general.

Nikki van Dusen, the company’s Digital Media Manager, says social media is a “new and important communications channel” for EPCOR. Van Dusen says the company – like most companies these days – has a strategy in place for dealing with feedback on social media.

“Given the amount of social media traffic and range of opinions, our approach is to reply to questions in cases where we can help by providing information, or correct inaccurate information, and to ignore but monitor trolls and ragers,” van Dusen said.

Carol Anne Kunicki says she took to social media to complain about service and billing problems as a last resort.

She says all companies need to strive to be successful on social media or risk losing their customers.

“There are countless examples now of major mistakes made by corporations on Twitter or other forms of social media have resulted in profit loss or brand loyalty shifts,” she says.

In many cases, companies will quickly try to resolve issues that are brought up on social media. I’ve found quicker resolutions through online complaints than by calling a company’s customer service line.

But while sharing bad experiences has never been easier – or more public – it doesn’t always mean a resolution will be met.

Though if I were a business owner, I’d certainly be trying hard to find one, because all publicity is not good publicity, especially in this social media age.

Some Tweets of the Week

@erinphyllis: Just saw someone riding a unicycle. In winter. #yeg you are awesome.

@ChickadeeRob: Pair of twitterpated squirrels chasing each other today – really hope that means spring is on its way! #yeg

@m_thachik: No officer, I’m not drunk just dodging pot holes #yeg #yegtraffic

@brisk_e: It’s been many years since I’ve had to wait an hour to buy concert tickets, but I finally got through! Can’t wait for @serenaryder in #yeg!

@jackiedawn13: The guy in front of me in the #TimHortons drive through bought my timbits and coffee for me! #HappyFriday #yeg #niceguy

Click here to read the column on the Edmonton Sun website!

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