Seriously Wall Street Journal?!

This past week I had an interesting, and confusing encounter with the Wall Street Journal. For my Basic Finance class, we’re required to read, and bring with us, a copy of the Wall Street Journal to every class. For the past two weeks I haven’t been receiving my copy in the mail, and after multiple attempts to resolve the matter with my local mailman I decided to take matters into my own hands: it was time to call the Wall Street Journal. I looked the number up online, called the international phone number they provided and was greeted by a pre-recorded machine. There were no options to talk to a live representative, so I hung up and returned to the website in an attempt to find a U.S. based phone number. However, when I visited the page, I was surprised by what I found. Instead of another number, there was a link available to generate a live chat.

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I must admit, I was skeptical whether or not customer service would a. respond and b. be able to assist me. Here goes nothing, I thought. Despite my initial skepticism, a customer service agent named Jefferson greeted me two minutes later. I was so pleased that he had responded so quickly, and he even extended my subscription to compensate for the two weeks I had missed out on. Nice! I couldn’t help but think how awesome it was that the WSJ was able to help me via an online chat. Without the chat, I never would have gotten through to the international number.

It wasn’t until the end of our conversation that I began to see the negative aspects of online customer support. I had asked Jefferson a final question about my subscription, to which he responded “Thank you for contacting Dow Jones. Have a great day ahead. Bye.” He had closed the chat without me being able to respond! I was no longer able to type anything in the chat box and all communication was ended—essentially, Jefferson hung up on me. Frankly, I was annoyed. Had we been on the phone, I don’t think he would have been so quick to hang up in the middle of my question. This experience left me confused; on the one hand, it was great that they gave the option of online customer service. On the other, I’d argue that the quality of the service wasn’t the same as it would have been had we been talking on the phone.

That experience left me thinking.. do social media platforms help or hinder the customer experience?

How Social Media Improves Customer Service & the Customer Experience:

1. Point of Contact: With social media platforms, such as Twitter or online chats, companies can reach customers who otherwise would not have been heard. As I mentioned in my example, there were barriers in the way of me speaking with someone on the phone. Also, I wasn’t going to drive to the Dow Jones! Without this forum, my inquiry would probably have gone unanswered.

2. More Customers, Same Time: Companies are also able to reach more customers in the same amount of time. While online, companies can talk and reach multiple customers at once. Traditional methods of communication don’t allow companies to do this. With more customers heard, hopefully this leads to more issues resolved.

3. Relationships: Many platforms, Twitter in particular, help companies establish relationships with customers. As we have talked about in class, some of us have tweeted at companies and gotten response from senior level management. This is so cool and builds brand image/ customer loyalty. In terms of customer service, if a company hears concerns from one customer (or a few customers) they will likely know how to better assist customer inquiries in the future.

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                                                         (@SouthwestWhit’s tweets in response to customers)

How It Hurts:

1. Quality: As I mentioned earlier, I was disappointed with the quality of my online assistance. I personally felt as if Jefferson didn’t treat me with the same respect I would have received had it been over the phone or in person. However, this is only one experience (I want to hear what you think). Also, there’s the assumption that he close the chat intentionally. Maybe he thought I really was done asking all of my questions. Social media often makes communication harder to interpret (which, unfortunately, can hinder the customer service experience).

2. Backlash: For better or for worse, social media creates room for discussion. This can often have very negative implications not only for the customer, but also for the company. The fact that I’m writing this blog post about my experience is indicative of this point. Blogs and online forums show that customers really do talk!

Right now, I’m still on the fence regarding social versus more traditional methods of communication for customer service. While I have found that social media is often very beneficial for brand promotion/ awareness, when it comes to merely customer service I’m not so sure.

Now I want to hear what you think! Please tell me about any experiences you’ve had!

6 comments

  1. I actually find Twitter to be the best customer service platform period, for many of the reasons you mention. Because everyone can see it, they are very responsive on social media. They also tend to assign better employees to these platforms and give them more power to act. Furthermore, they can often handle multiple customer service engagements at once. I’m sold, but it will be interesting to see if the service deteriorates over time.

  2. I happen to agree with Professor Kane. On numerous occasions I have used live chats to resolve customer service issues (primarily on websites for major department stores) and have had nothing but positive experiences. Instead of having to wait on hold for what seems like an eternity, I am almost instantaneously connected to a real person, and don’t have to worry about my call dropping, background noise, or deal with any communication problems due to heavy foreign accents (as many call centers I have called are outsourced to other countries). One of my favorite parts about these live chats is that I am able to print out the correspondence as proof of communication. I am sorry for your negative experience, don’t give up on them yet! Worst case scenario, you could always open up a new chat with another customer service representative and ask as many questions as you want.

  3. I love online chats for customer service! Much like your experience, I think phone calls have gotten way too confusing. It seems like you have to wait on the phone forever pushing approximately 9 billion numbers before actually getting to a representative, but chats allow you an almost immediate response. I do agree that quality can waver a bit online but I think that is largely to do with who you get in contact with and less to do with the platform. In my experiences, most people online ask if I have any more questions before disconnecting our chat. Kind of a side note, I am wondering if the experiences for the online representatives is any better or worse. We all know customer service can be a pretty tough business, because lets face it, people aren’t always nice! I wonder if representatives receive better or worse treatment online compared to the phone or in person. My initial guess would be that people would be a little nastier online because they are hiding behind their computer!

  4. Like the other commenters, I love when companies use social media to perform customer service. I suppose they could easily ignore a customer (like yourself) but if they do that on Twitter or Facebook everyone can see it. I believe that it holds them responsible. It’s also just a very practical way of communication in todays society. The way I think of it is they can put you on hold a million times but at some point they have to respond to a tweet or Facebook post. Even if it’s out of sheer annoyance they still have to give you some sort of response because if they don’t the entire public will see it. Whenever a company responds or reaches out to me I feel like a valued customer and I think that’s exactly what customer service via social media is all about.

  5. I agree with the other commenters that I am quite ecstatic that companies now handle customer service issues online. For one, I have had countless experiences where a phone representative would not fully listen to what I have to say and sometimes ignored my requests. Just as others mentioned, having the ability to publish the conversation has appeared to improve my experiences with various companies. Companies are forced to address the issues, and if they do not, customers might assume the firm does not care for the customers’ concerns or opinions. I do agree with you that there are drawbacks to using social media for customer service. Using traditional forms of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, allows companies to process the feedback, but the customer will not receive customized service immediately. It may take longer, and for time-sensitive matters, it would not appear to be the best way to voice an opinion or need. Despite this though, it does provide some clarity and transparency in customer service.

  6. I actually had the same problem with the Wall Street Journal when I was taking Basic Finance. Their customer service was so bad, it got to the point where they just agreed with our professor to just leave a stack of them in Fulton and have whoever got their first get them. I agree that social media is a great platform for customer service because it gives the company incentive to help their customers, or face consequences. For instance, if they do a good job helping, their followers, whether there be 100 or 1,000,000, will see this and acknowledge their great service. These stories of outstanding customer service can go viral as well, giving the company even more credibility. Conversely, if they ignore their customers or perform bad customer service, those same followers see this and it is bad publicity for the company.

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