Providing top-tier social customer service and crisis management is a must for every Telco and ISP.

It’s how satisfaction is maintained, brand equity is accrued, and loyalty is earned.

All pretty important stuff.

Recently, I had an extremely negative experience with my ISP during a 5+ day outage that affected tens of thousands of customers.

As is typical, droves of customers took to Twitter and other social channels with lots of questions, and a healthy amount of negativity, which is to be anticipated.

I had my fair share of questions as well.

Disappointingly, none of the social customer service agents working shifts through the outage were able to provide any meaningful answers.

To their credit, agents were very responsive for the most part, and displayed at least some level of empathy – even if it was a bit repetitive – for customers via their social interactions.

These attributes, however, are not what define an effective social crisis management plan – not even close.

General responsiveness and a bit of empathy doesn’t help me to understand when my business can get back up and running without going to crazy lengths to simply have internet access, and it certainly doesn’t compensate me for the downtime or inconvenience.

As for customers with less urgent and impactful reasons for their internet downtime causing distress (It’s infuriating to miss out on binging season 2 of Stranger Things!), they deserve better than this as well.

These aren’t issues that are unique to me and the thousands of other Torontonians that were impacted by last week’s service outage, these tend to be common vertical-wide issues.

Without getting into the details of what goes into the creation and execution of a comprehensive social media crisis management plan, following are a few straightforward recommendations that will improve the customer service provided by Telcos and ISPs through outages or other crisis management situations:

RECOMMENDATION 1: Apologies should be simple and straightforward.

Customers don’t need you to tell them, ‘we understand how frustrating this must be’, or, ‘we know how angry you must be that you can’t binge your favourite Netflix show’.

You’re not living up to your promise of delivering services, obviously this is frustrating. Don’t tell customers what they’re already thinking. These kinds of interactions come across as patronizing and insincere. Keep your apologies simple and to the point, and maintain focus on being solutions-oriented.

RECOMMENDATION 2: Only make promises you can keep.

If you tell a customer that services will be restored within a specific period of time – guess what? – that’s what they’ll expect! If you aren’t 100 percent certain that you can deliver, then don’t make a promise.

Customers are going to want answers and will apply a great deal of pressure for your social customer service team for information. Don’t promise anything unless you are certain that you can deliver. Failing to do so will worsen an already terrible situation, destroy trust, and tarnish perceptions of your business and brand.

RECOMMENDATION 3: Provide regular updates.

People should not have to ask you every 2-hours for an update on your outage. Your company is in the communications business, so not providing this kind of information is completely unacceptable!

Customers want to know what has happened to cause a service outage, what your organization is doing to rectify the situation, and how long it will be until service is restored. People understand that you won’t always have answers to these questions, but you can ensure that regular updates are being provided to your social customer service team to ensure they have the latest information to relay.

RECOMMENDATION 4: Proactively provide compensation for down time.

Customers pay for services with the expectation that they will be available. When your services go down, people are going to expect, at the very least, a refund for the value of the down time.

Take the high road and proactively compensate people for the time your services were down. If you wait for people to complain or request discounts, they’ll feel as though you’re providing the minimum acceptable resolution. By simply beating your customers to the punch, you’ll effectively build trust in your brand, and provide people with an unexpectedly positive experience coming out of what we’ve otherwise classified as a crisis situation.

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Have you had any particularly positive social customer service experiences with your service provider?

What are your expectations when it comes to social customer service during service outages?

It would be great to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, or on Twitter @RGBsocial

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Community Management, Crisis Management, Engagement, Social Business, Social Media, Twitter

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