Fear Factor

19 11 2009

It hasn’t been too many years since people became empowered by email. Little did folks know it at the time, but they had been given a giant megaphone through which they could speak to the ends of the earth. This wasn’t about just sending little private missives between acquaintances. No, it was about joining listservs and broadcasting to the masses every little pet peeve you might have about something or some company.

Boycotts had never been easier. It was like throwing together an irate customer posse, but with the ease of a few keystrokes and a click.

But if you think that enabling struck fear in the hearts of corporations, it pales in comparison to what is going on now thanks to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Companies are having to hire full-time social media managers just to monitor what’s going on in the Twitterverse, lest a digital flash mob push the firm down the slippery slope of corporate aloofness.

If anything, the ability of average joes to tell the world their problems has actually begun to change the way that customer service is provided. To ignore what people are saying in these very, very public forums is tantamount to saying you just don’t give a damn about your customers. And that’s a dangerous thing to do.

It was just a few weeks ago that I bellyached on Twitter about the abysmal service I was getting from Clear (formerly Clearwire), the wireless broadband internet service provider. They had recently switched to their new 4G WiMax system, and…well…it just wasn’t working. In fact, my new modem was running slower than the previous system. Repeated phone calls resulted in “Well, we’re testing the new equipment in your area, and there appears to be some signal degradation going on right now.”

Yeah, no %^&* Sherlock.

So I decided this would take more extreme measures. If a 1-on-1 phone conversation got me nowhere, how about appearing on the timeline of a social network with 50 million users? That should count for something. And it did.

Lucky for Clear, they have someone monitoring what disgruntled people like me are saying. It didn’t take long for them to follow me, as well as respond directly. And you know what? My Clear now works great. It will never be as sizzling fast as a cable modem, but for folks like me who live in the country, it’s the fastest thing going.

I’ve also seen the positive side of customer service via social networking. A couple of months ago I was at Pei Wei and noticed their new digital signage. I posted an upbeat tweet about it, and within a couple of hours they had hollered back a polite thank you. The next time I went in I noticed they had Twitter and Facebook logos on that signage, so I posted a picture of it. Another quick thank you resulted (although the hoped-for free food did not materialize…but I digress).

Still, the face of customer service has changed considerably thanks to Twitter and Facebook. Why, it’s almost enough to make me want to send an email to all my friends.

Dr “Still Waiting For That Free Food” Gerlich



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