To reply or not to reply #socialcustcare

I was asked the following question the other day:

If our brand is mentioned in a customer’s personal Facebook post, is it appropriate for us to respond and acknowledge the matter? For example, the customer posted about our ATM breakdown and mentioned and tagged three of our branches in their personal Facebook post.

I thought that was a great question and for me it’s balancing up a few different things, as you go through the process of considering the most appropriate course of action.

When did the ATM breakdown occur? Was it last month, in which case there’s not much you can do about it now, or was it thirty seconds ago, in which case you can potentially proactively help the customer through the situation ie. apologise for the inconvenience and then give them directions to the nearest ATMs in the area or branch if there is one nearby. You could take it a step further and let the branch know that this customer is on their way to their branch to get some money out. Don’t forget to also let the appropriate person in the organisation know there is a problem with an ATM. With this in mind you could also set-up some kind of monitoring of keywords or phrases – ATM, #ATMfail etc, turn this into a map that your customers can also see.

You need to be mindful that it is a personal post. The person may think you are overstepping the mark, and this would be heightened if the breakdown happened awhile ago.

Should you choose to respond, then I think it comes down to trying to understand what your intent or motivation is: are you genuinely trying to help your customer? Your tone of voice is also important to consider in these sorts of situations, as it will reflect your degree of empathy for the customer’s immediate situation. While the breakdown of an ATM may be commonplace for the organisation, for the customer at that moment in time, it could be the last straw in what has been a bad day for them.

If there is a sense of urgency on the part of the customer, will your intervention make a positive difference to the customer? Here you need to think about appropriateness of response. If you’re going to ask them to DM or email you, this will achieve little beyond annoyance. You need to think about how you are going to help the customer at that moment in time, while staying in the same channel that the post was initiated on, in this case Facebook. This raises the question of whether your systems, processes, the overall experience you have in place is actually geared up to help or hinder.

And as for the bank, the agent did decide to respond to the customer on Facebook, once they got the green light from their manager to do so. The customer thanked them for acknowledging the post and dealing with the situation promptly. In addition, the customer’s friends also posted positive comments that the bank actually reached out and did something. The issue was addressed within a few hours from the initial posting and the customer went to a nearby ATM.

My recommendation to social customer care teams out there is to take these types of examples – find them on Twitter or Facebook – and then simulate the scenario to see how you or your team would deal with it. Add in different challenges along the way, by creating a sense of urgency, complexity, the degree of customer frustration or anger to stress test your thinking. The one time you become complacent is the one time you’ll get caught out.

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