Customer Service In The Age Of Social Media

Yesterday I spoke with City News‘ Kris Reyes about the challenges businesses face in customer service in the age of social media. In Toronto we’ve seen numerous recent instances of “citizen journalism” highlighting problems at the TTC – a TwitPic of a TTC worker sleeping; a video of a bus driver’s unscheduled coffee break in the middle of a route and finally a perhaps ill-advised Facebook page set up by some TTC staff.

It’s a tough time to work in a customer-facing job. It just takes one slip-up and, if you’re unlucky, you can find yourself all over the news – online and offline. This is especially the case if you work for a publicly-funded organization.

I offered three tips for people and organizations to think about:

  1. Organizations need to prepare their employees to work in this kind of environment. Existing employee guidelines may offer boundaries for employees, but they only kick-in after the fact. Employers need to provide their staff with the knowledge and understanding of how quickly these situations can arise, and how to avoid them.
  2. Employees, meanwhile, need to remember that they now work in an environment where information is shared in real-time. That means you can make one mistake and seconds later evidence of that mistake can be online. This “always on” connectivity means you need to always be on, too.
  3. The toothpaste is out of the tube when it comes to customer advocacy. Cameras, video cameras and even Twitter aren’t going way any time soon. Instead of fighting a battle they can’t win by complaining about the use of smart phones by customers, organizations need to adjust and find a way to operate in this situation.