Blogging was where we began, and how we built our company so we have preserved this archive to show how our thinking developed over a decade of developing the use of social technology inside organisations

Social Media, Customer service and the 9-5 problem

by Felix Cohen

I’ve just finished listening to the fantastic Smodcast for Kevin Smith about his experiences with South West Airlines, which comes fresh on the tail of last weeks twitter furore over Paperchase using possibly plagiarised designs. Now, I don’t want to discuss who’s right in these two situations, but the problems the respective companies have had dealing with the online response.

It seems that both of these social media torch mobs grew before the companies had any chance to respond, and that then the corporate tweeters and press offices were trying their hardest to be heard in a crescendo of angry tweeters, commenters and private conversations happening on facebook. However, these companies were constrained by circumstance; an evening tweet by Neil Gaiman and Kevin Smith tweeting, pretty much continuously over the whole weekend.

Especially, of course, if the incident that sparks the pitchfork-wielding online mob takes place in the evening, in a different time-zone or at the weekend; companies don’t have the crisis management teams in place and can’t put their side of the story forward. Heck, even with low level grumbles about service, if I’m using my social tools I expect a response at the weekend or in the evening. It’s unfair, but it’s also the way twitter works…it’s people, and people use it 24/7.

I’ve been thinking about this as a problem; we can use CoTweet, and have Social Media policy in place, but what happens in the (up to) 48 hours before your company representative can say something. The story forms without your participation, and it’s probably going to be wrong, or at least sensationalised.

You probably can’t ask your staff members who use social media to monitor company mentions in down-time, and generally the situations that you need to deal with here will require informed insiders, not the services of an outsourced social media team. What can be done about this? Any readers found good solutions?

4 Responses to Social Media, Customer service and the 9-5 problem

  1. By Terence Eden on February 15, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    The only solution is to delegate authority to your employees “on the ground”. If a manager can’t rectify an unpleasant and unfair situation because “that’s the policy” then the customer is going to get angry.

  2. By Tom Taylor on February 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Excellent picture use.

  3. By Rich Baker on February 25, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Great post, thanks for sharing!
    I led the introduction of Twitter for customer service/online & crisis PR in the UK rail industry and found this to be an issue. Using cotweet at the time I was able to react instantly to issues, however that sometimes meant I would be at home tweeting at 11pm on a saturday evening.
    I also had a ‘day job’ leading a large geographically dispersed team!
    The solution in my experience, is to select the right people in the organisation at every level who can use social media at times that do not leave the business exposed.

  4. By Felix Cohen on March 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Thanks Rich, I had a feeling that someone was ending up being duty-bound to man the Twitters out of hours; I just hope you never had to respond to any of my angry train related tweets!
    I’m interested to hear how you were able to get ‘buy-in’ from senior staff to use social media out of hours…where there crises that made it obvious they needed to get involved, or were you able to persuade them to engage from the word go?