When the social media team turns anti-social…

Social media? What’s it about? It’s all about people.

It’s about people connecting with other people in their personal lives and about people connecting with people in their work lives, at companies and other organisations.

What can customers expect from social media exchanges with companies on Facebook and Twitter?  Well, they would hope that a straight question would be greeted with a straight answer, at all times and without unnecessary delays.

So, what happens when a person at a company seems to lose this basic ability to answer a straight question?

Well, it seems to happen a lot. And it happens around a very simple question. Have a look:

What’s the question being asked here?  It’s one of the most basic and easiest-to-answer questions a person can ask about any organisation when something has gone wrong:  Who is in charge? Who is the top person in the organisation?

Why does this matter?
It matters because when customers don’t get answers from “customer services”, or when “customer services” people are not empowered to make a difference, then it’s time to escalate the issue to the person who can make a difference, the Managing Director or CEO. This is the person who has executive power to intervene and resolve an issue that has gone on for too long or which is not being handled properly.

Why does the social media team suddenly become “anti-social”?
Social media teams have in general got better at handling customer enquiries and responding to questions in a timely manner. This is because using social media is a cost-effective way of connecting with customers and of helping them with their problems with a company’s product or service. And when it works well for customers, it can help enhance a company’s public image. But where a company does not respond on social media, or where questions are met with resistance, as shown above, then this can only have a negative effect on the customer’s view of a company.

There are several possible reasons why a social media team member is unable to answer a basic question of the type shown above:

  • Ignorance – They genuinely do not know who is the Managing Director or CEO of their own organisation – this is very unlikely, as everyone knows the name of their boss! And if an employee doesn’t know the name of their boss, what else do they not know? If they don’t understand their own company and its people, how can they possibly be of any use to anyone outside of it?
  • Outsourcing – The social media feed is being run by someone who does not work for the company and who doesn’t know the name of the boss of their client – this is also unlikely but possible… In this case a company that has outsourced its social media should ensure that the company providing service on Facebook and Twitter is fully informed about their client and its key people and can properly answer customers’ questions about it.
  • Lack of Empowerment – The social media person is not empowered to provide the information requested. This happens when a company does not entrust its social media staff with the power to make a difference to customer enquiries. If the social media person is unable tell a customer who is the boss, then he/she is also often unlikely to make a difference to customer service issues. Using a social media team, whether inside or outside the company, who are not empowered on a social media site is worse than not having a social media presence at all…
  • No Name policy – The dreaded “no name” policy… In these situations, the company has a policy which means that any questions asking for the names of people in an organisation are met with a blunt refusal to answer the question.

Does “No name” mean no responsibility?
A company “no name” policy is an unfortunate hangover from the 20th century, where companies would refuse to provide the names of their directors and staff, out of fear that they might be “poached” by other companies. In the 21st century some companies believe they can use a “no name” policy to shield their senior staff from their customers. Staff may do this because they believe the CEO should not have to deal with customers and/or because they think that it will expose the poor performance of the customer service team.

In a connected world of social media there is simply no place for a “no name” policy at any organisation. Any company or organisation that still has a “no name” policy in the 21st century needs to take a serious look at itself, its attitude to its customers and to the world in general.

Openness and Transparency are key
The companies that perform best at customer services, especially on social media, are those which are open with their customers about the problems they encounter and transparent about their organisation and the people who lead it and work for it. These companies are honest about situations when they mess up, they empower their staff to tell the truth and they allow their customers to make contact with the person who can make a real difference, the CEO or MD.

So, the next time you see a “social media” team on Facebook or Twitter being “anti-social” and telling you that he or she cannot tell you the name of the boss, demand to know why… then go and find the contact details for the boss on http://CEOemail.com   And take it to the top…!

 

Today’s guest post was written by Marcus Williamson 
Marcus Williamson is a journalist and consumer campaigner with a background in the Information Technology sector. In 2010 he established the website http://CEOemail.com which now helps more than 11,000 people every day to resolve consumer issues by escalating them to the individuals who can make a difference.

 

 

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