Keeping Customer Service Human on Social Media

Through social media, you can learn a lot about your business, and your customers. The robust conversations that take place on social media can help you can learn the general sentiment about your business, your customers’ thoughts on your products and practices, responses to industry trends and your customers’ reactions to them, and so on. Essentially, social platforms house the pulse of your customers. The problem is: not everyone checks theirs.

Social media gives customers a voice, a platform to speak directly to a business — but not every business invests in actually listening to these voices. While some individuals will share legitimate customer service issues that need to be resolved through other vehicles, often times, people who reach out through social media just want to know that their concerns have been heard by a real, live human. Completely ignoring your customers — or worse, leaving your social customer service to bots and autoresponders — can completely alienate the people who went well out of their way to initiate a meaningful conversation with you.

In Business Insider recently was the story of a southern England train operator that had been experiencing less than stellar satisfaction ratings due to service issues, cancellations and union-led strikes. Southern Rail gave the reigns of their Twitter account to 15-year-old Eddie, so that he could gain work experience, at the height of this negative publicity. Yikes!

What sounded like a setup for a trainwreck turned out to be a way to allow disgruntled customers to feel like their concerns were being listened to, and the quirky kindness of such a youthful Southern Rail ambassador somehow seemed to lighten a heavy mood. People opened up to Eddie on Twitter, even people rooted for Eddie by giving him his own #AskEddie hashtag. Above all, train riders knew that the young volunteer wouldn’t single-handedly resolve all of the frustrating service issues they were experiencing, but they knew that they were at least able to communicate on a level playing field with a human representative of the company.

Southern Rail’s investment in Eddie’s experience resulted in a healthy dose of positive attention, something that had been completely foreign to the company in recent months. While this unique, youthful strategy was an unusual choice for the company, the lesson is clear: make everyone feel better by giving customers an actual human to voice their concerns to, then listen (and respond!) to what they are telling you.