Engaging with customers via social media is worse than useless if your response mechanism is rooted in an inflexible rules-based pre-digital corporate culture that makes your social media staff look like emasculated robotic parrots and serves only to annoy.
Two recent personal encounters with, let’s says a UK-based high street bank that didn’t take any Government bail-out money and a once highly successful mobile handset manufacturer that has fallen on hard times but still has a devoted following amongst teenagers and, errr, rioters are cases in point.
The bank quietly c***ing up the world of finance
I used to have a couple of telebanking accounts with a life assurance company that formed a bank. To start with at least it was great - top interest rates backed up by speedy efficient service all served up with a soft Scottish burr at the end of the phone. They handled a lot of my money, but over time both its service levels and interest rates declined towards the norm and I was just about to kick them into touch when they were acquired by the high street bank.
This event strengthened my resolve, but trying to close the accounts has been a farce. After endless phone calls I was eventually told I couldn’t do it over the phone, I’d have to go to the bank and speak to a cashier to do it. I had to queue at the bank only to be told I can empty the accounts but I can’t close them down without coming back after making an appointment to see a `personal banker`. I emptied the accounts then and there.
I had signed up to telebanking, not a trip back to the 1970s and I’d wasted more than enough time already. I thought I’d see if this bank would wake up if I tried the social media approach. A day later they picked up my exasperated Tweet with the classic `sorry you have a problem, we’d like to help` and then spent the next week proving to me that there was no way they actually could even if they wanted to.
A simple request for some assistance has now had to be classed as a `complaint` involving the posting of forms to yours truly which If I want any action I’ll have to waste more time filling up. A week later I have received a letter confirming I’ve `complained` but nothing else has happened to actually address the original issue. An epic #fail. Can’t wait until some other functionary in this not-joined-up entity calls me to find out why I have no money in my still-functioning accounts.
The handset supplier meeting its Waterloo
The same corporate idiocy is also being demonstrated by the hand set manufacturer. For the last year I’ve been going back and forth to a network operator’s high street shop from which I bought my daughter’s phone, which, for various reasons, quickly ceases to work properly.
We’re now on our third version of the same phone and this one has ceased to work. The problem is in the manufacturing quality of the handset. So I tweet the manufacturer in its home country and the UK. Half a day after they reply with the same sort of smiley tweet as the bank, asking if I could tell them more. I do. Two days later and after prompting they suggest I take the phone back to the supplying re-seller to see if they can help. Cretinous. After a robust reply they are now claiming they are trying their best to help. We’ll see. To their credit they are now telling me they will replace the phone with a newer model. But that was a week ago and nothing has yet happened.
Brand builder or breaker?
So corporates, you have a choice. You could realise that social media is a whole new world governed by different attitudes to conversations and with different expectations, align your organisation to it and use it to build brand loyalty, daily endorsement associated value for your company though your interactions.
On the other hand you could persist with the gaping gap between your `customer service` Twitter monkeys and the ability of your organisation to deliver anything useful and ensure that your every action means you can be more and more certain your previous customers will never again bank with your or buy your technology. If you carry on as you are then you can also be sure that, in the age of social media, your customers won’t just be walking away muttering and quietly nursing a private grudge.
They’ll be doing exactly what I’m doing now. This needn’t be the case. Take King of Shaves’ approach to customer interaction, for instance. But that can wait for my next, and I promise, much shorter blog.
(This article originally appeared on www.ChameleonPR.com)