Providing Great Customer Service in the age of Social Media

Last week, an irate customer walked into a Florida Dunkin’ Donuts to demand a free meal having not received a receipt from the previous night’s purchase.  The customer held a cell phone in her hand during the interaction, announcing that she was recording to post on Facebook.  During her eight minute tirade, which included a good amount of profanity and some racial slurs, 27-year old Taylor Chapman, an aspiring lawyer, belittled and berated 18-year old Abid Adar.

For more on the story read herehere and here.

In the age of social media, customer service has become an increasingly challenging tightrope walk.  PCWorld posted an article yesterday by Christopher Null about the challenges of a company dealing with irate and unhappy customers in the social media age.

I think it is important for us to note Mr. Null’s tips on dealing with situation like this one:

Training, training, training. You can’t overtrain your staff on how to deal with an angry customer. The basic strategy is to a) acknowledge their problem, b) ask how you can resolve it, and c) if you’re unable to do so on the spot, take down their information and have someone follow up later. It’s common sense that you should never fight or argue with an irate customer—but without practice, those urges can be difficult suppress.

Assume everything is on video. In today’s world of ubiquitous, miniature cameras, it probably is. Your customer service problem becomes 100 times worse when it’s broadcast for the world to see.

Make the problem go away as quickly as possible. How much does a bag of donuts really cost Dunkin’ Donuts? Compare that to how much the world seeing a fiery incident where an employee yelled at or got physical with a customer would cost.

For online complaints, advice varies. There are two camps on how to deal with angry customers on the web. One says to respond, make things right by offering freebies, and eventually asking the customer to remove their negative remarks. The other says to ignore: Responding only increases the SEO value of whatever page on which they’re complaining. In general: Respond when possible, but don’t feed the trolls.

As a former Guest Relations Host for Disney, I can tell you this is sound advice.  Watching the video, I cringed for the kid on the receiving end, since there was no way he would win this argument.  He handled himself in the best manner he could.  He did exactly what should have been done in that situation.

Most people forget that Social Media is a double-edged sword.  While Ms. Chapman imagined people agreeing with her that she was right in the situation, she comes off as an awful human.

Questions for the class:

1) Do you agree with Christopher Hull’s assessment of dealing with these kind of customer service situations? Why?

2) Would you have handled the situation differently than Abid Adar?

3) Do you have any other examples of how Social Media can be a double-edged sword?

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