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social customer serviceLast month we announced that a third of us harness online channels following poor customer service. The research we carried out found that 31 per cent of consumers post on internet forums, review channels and social media following inadequate service, spreading the complaint across our networks and beyond.

One respondent explained, “The scale of people seeing the complaint usually makes the company take notice, to limit any knock-on effect to other customers who may also perceive the issue as unacceptable”.

Earlier this month, I put this to the test. Back in February I emailed a gas supplier about damage they’d done during work carried out at my property. I received no response. While I could have phoned, email was more convenient, and after all, the company had offered – even encouraged - it as a contact channel. I followed up with another couple of emails, and still nothing. So five months after my first contact – I decided to turn to Facebook.

Once on the company’s Facebook page, I saw that a number of other people had taken the same approach. I wrote my comment and waited. Within two hours, a customer service representative had responded to my message. Within two days I’d received several emails and calls from staff who were falling over themselves to help me. It was social customer service at its best – a quick and helpful response.

But while I got the reply I was looking for, the business has instilled the wrong behaviour in me, and probably other customers who took the same course of action. They’ve taught us that taking to a public forum to raise an issue is the best way to get a quick response. While social customer service has its place, you would think that when it comes to raising complaints, a more private exchange would be preferable for a business. Furthermore, its customers would be forgiven for thinking that great service is only important to the business when its reputation is at risk.

Our research found that seven per cent of consumers actually consider posting on Facebook to be the most effective way to resolve a problem. In the past, customers would tell friends and family if they experienced poor service, and while that is damaging to a brand, it’s not nearly as powerful and immediate as customers who take their complaints online. Within hours, a business can suffer irreversible damage to its reputation, resulting in lost revenue and growth opportunities.

Customers have a stronger influence on a business’s success than ever before and it’s surprising how many organisations aren’t getting it right. Customers want engaging experiences every time, and through every channel.

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About Nicola Brookes

Nicola is corporate communications director at NewVoiceMedia. She will mostly blog about customer service, industry news, events and company updates. Follow Nicola on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbrookespr

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