Social Media as Marketing Communications versus Customer Service tool

Did you see it?  On Monday 1st December (while people were battling to peel back the tin foil behind the first window of their advent calendars – you know what we mean!) BBC Breakfast aired a really interesting interview with the Chartered Institute of Marketing(CIM).

The segment coincided with Cyber Monday – the first Monday in December when online sales soar as retailers drop their prices and shoppers take advantage of having pennies in their bank accounts following the last pay-day before Christmas.  It focused on ecommerce and consumers knowing their rights when buying online.

While it’s estimated that £650m was spent in cyber space yesterday, it would be interesting to know how many of those purchases will be returned in time, complaints made and refunds claimed.  Even more interesting to know, is how the purchaser will go about contacting the retailer to communicate their concerns.

During the BBC Breakfast piece, it was said that the first rule of marketing is to know how your customers want to be communicated with, and nowadays in our ever connected digital world, picking up the phone and speaking to a customer service representative in a call centre is not always top of the list.  In fact, the CIM recommended that if you have made a purchase online recently and wish to complain, the best way to do this is to take to Twitter.

Why?  It’s all about reputation.  Think about it…

In the old days when you could only write a letter or pick up the phone to speak to a representative of a company, the conversation was very much private.  It was a direct dialogue between the brand and the consumer – no one in the public sphere ever needed to know (of course, if the consumer happened to talk about the awful goods / service / products... whatever it might be, they received with their friends, then word would eventually get out).

But now, social media has massively changed customer service.  In taking to Twitter or any other digital platform to make a complaint, arrange a return or request a refund, the exchange is very much in the public sphere.  For the brand, this presents a reputational challenge – while difficult conversations would once take place behind metaphorical closed doors, across social media these conversations take place with the whole world watching.  Throw into the mix the immediacy of digital platforms, consumers also expect a response in a relatively short space of time – it’s not like waiting weeks to receive a return letter from a brand anymore.

Naturally, to protect reputation and save face, it’s in the brand’s best interest to deal with such consumer communications swiftly and efficiently.  After all, they don’t want to be seen to be providing poor service with their customers, competitors and any other demographics you care to mention watching.

And this got us thinking…

Where do you draw the line between social media as a communication tool for PR and marketing communications versus social media as a customer service platform?  Is marcomms and customer service becoming one and the same thing? Should we revise the marketing mix to include customer service?

Let us know what you think about the social media and marcomms vs customer service debate.

Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled.  Following on from this post, soon we’ll be blogging with our top tips for keeping customers happy online

Tags: Social Media, Communications

Posted by Frankie Boyle
on December 2, 2014