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.
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.
(@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!