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The need for joined up customer services on social

Last week was my first week back in the office after a 10-day break. I was feeling pretty good. Then I got to the station. Not only were there no London-bound trains, but there was no explanation as to why there were no trains, and indeed, when there would be any.

If in doubt, turn to Twitter. So I did. This got me absolutely no help. Most people who use Southeastern or Thameslink trains will know that this is a common occurrence, both poor service and lack of response through social media. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when they’ve been helpful. But with a business that is consumer-facing and provides a service to consumers, shouldn’t its social media platforms be firing on all cylinders?

For many businesses, social media is its first line of defence. As soon as a consumer has a problem, they turn to Twitter or Facebook to try and get a response and/ or help. So why are so many businesses falling at the first hurdle? Gone are the days of having to call an 0800 number to ask a question; these platforms needs to be staffed and providing useful information. And responding quickly – some businesses forget that social media is a platform for conversation, not simply to broadcast.

Poor responses can be detrimental to a business. Given how much of a shift we’ve taken toward embracing a mobile way of life, businesses really need to keep pace and adopt this way of communicating. It doesn’t take much for someone to hit social media platforms to vent their frustration or anger at being ignored, or being provided with a bad service. The negative comments stick. And we all know how SEO works.

However, it’s not just poor engagement that can totally stuff up a business on social media. There are different rules for businesses. A business can’t start abbreviating words or sentences to make sure they fit into 140 characters like an individual can. A business shouldn’t use a human tragedy to piggy-back their products/services. And whoever is tweeting on behalf of the business definitely needs to remember to switch back to their personal account once they leave the office.

I sympathise with the people who have to run these social media accounts. Especially for those who work for companies who provide a service to the public that is rubbish. They are the people who get the brunt of the anger and frustration at things going wrong.

The onus is on those responsible for social media to ensure they’re deploying an effective and robust response unit. It has to be available full working hours, if not 24/7. It should be treated as a legitimate part of the business and unfortunately, some are still using it like it’s merely a platform to shout about themselves.

Written by Lucy Willatt, director at agency The PR Office

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