In my post, Hacking the customer service game, Econobiker -- the same commenter who started me off on this "explore how social media is changing customer service" idea -- offered yet more wisdom on the subject. "The squeakiest wheel gets the most grease," says my mysterious econo-biking stranger. And he (she?) warns that companies have a vested interest in offering tech support in a social media setting because people who use social media are essentially bad word-of-mouth publicity on steroids. In short, he (she?) says, it serves the companies' best interest to help these people in order to quiet them. Does that count?
Exactly! That's what's great about blogs, Twitter, forums, and other social media tools. They are open to everyone, yet they raise one voice above the sound of on-hold music by putting it out there for anyone who is listening. These voices get attention because they get attention. And social media is actually easier to use -- for those with a technical comfort level, very little free time, and even less patience -- than a call to technical support. Is it self-serving of the companies to pay -- if they do -- more attention to social media before a single voice on the end of a phone line? Probably. But it works for me, too.
I'm not suggesting companies should give up on phone support. Some problems are too complex to be dealt without a live connection. And some customers are not comfortable with social media. But for those of us who are already on Twitter (or blogging or lurking in forums), what a great end run around hold times.
Among the many companies that contacted me to talk about how they are using social media to reach customers was one that's using social media to empower consumers. Marc Karasu, the founder of MeasuredUp.com, explained that his site is there to allow consumers to report publicly, without an editorial filter (though there is moderation) on customer service experiences -- good and bad. Like Econobiker, Karasu recognizes that companies pay attention when voices speak publicly and negatively about their products or services. But Karasu sees this as a force that can be harnessed for the good of consumers and the betterment of customer service.
The idea started with a gripe. "I had a bad experience with a dry cleaner," explains Karasu. "They had ruined some of my shirts and planned to do nothing about it. I ranted and raged," he laughs. "And threatened to sue and to put them out of business with my nonexistent Web site."
But afterwards, when telling the story to friends, he realized that there should be a Web site for exactly that purpose. A public place where people can alert other potential customers to bad practices and praise companies for good ones. So he set out to build it.