Are You a Good Social Citizen?


Are You a Good Social Citizen?

By Elaine Cascio, Vice President  |  January 12, 2015

The book on social media etiquette is still being written, but there are some clear guidelines for business, especially for those of us in the business of customer service.  Here are my top five for using social media responsibly.

1.      Respond quickly. A number of different surveys agree that customers expect to hear back within an hour – and that’s 24x7.  According to Lithium Technologies, that figure goes up to 72 percent when customers are getting social about a problem. And if you don’t get back to them quickly, most will think less favorably of your company, but a substantial percent will respond not only by withholding business but by shaming your company on social media. 

When I talk about responding, I don’t mean always solving the problem, but at minimum letting customers know that you heard them and are looking into their issue or concern, and giving them a timeframe for getting back to them. Service level and first contact resolution are a mantra for contact centers. So make sure you have service levels for social media – both for initial response and for wrapping up the issue. And strive to resolve the issue right away.

2.      Designate the right people to respond to social media. We’ve all cringed at stories of rogue employees taking it on themselves to respond to tweets or posts.  Who can forget the story of a prominent think tank telling Amnesty International to “suck it” on Twitter (News - Alert)? Turned out that the tweet was posted by an intern who had access to the organization’s account. Ouch.

Robotweets are equally embarrassing. Yes, there is value in having stock responses available for agents, but using them inappropriately or too often smacks of unconcern or insincerity.

Those tasked with responding to social media should have both rules and guidelines. Their training should be similar to that of new phone agents, including role-playing and observing more seasoned social agents. And social media should be quality monitored just as we monitor phone calls.

3.      Remember the customer is always right. Don’t be argumentative or hostile. It just makes your company look like bullies. Plus, it will go viral. Trust me. 

Ryanair got into a viral shaming match with a blogger who wrote about his attempts to take advantage of an online booking loophole to get a free ticket. Tweets ensued from Ryanair, calling the blogger an “idiot”, “liar”, and a “lunatic blogger.” One commenter asked if “aggression is something Ryanair provides training in, or is it something they explicitly look for when hiring someone?"  This is an extreme example, even for a company that seems to pride itself on mediocre customer service.

4.      Be transparent. Although you may turn a Twitter or Facebook (News - Alert) comment into a private conversation, always wrap up in the same place the conversation started. For example, an airline may ask a customer to DM their flight, ticket, and claim numbers when they complain about a lost bag. Although there may be some direct back and forth, when the customer’s bag is located, the airline should tweet about the bag being en route to the customer’s hotel. It might result in a thank you and online kudos from the customer.

5.      Follow corporate social media strategy. What does your company’s voice sound like? Social media strategy should provide guidelines for things like whether the brand is playful or serious, for example. By using this common voice, social media helps present a single corporate face to customers.

Finally, don’t forget to listen and not just speed read and make assumptions. Engaging customers through social media not only increases satisfaction, but builds community and polishes your company’s online reputation.

Elaine Cascio is vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp., a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, change management, operations and technology. 

Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (, a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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