Last week, Jay Baer wrote a post about how brands are responding on social media. Jay’s premise was that companies that can respond withing minutes on the social sphere are sending out a far more positive message than those that dilly-dally.
It’s a really interesting read, and the comments after the post sparked a great debate about Jay’s premise, and if we weren’t setting companies up to fail by jumping to action as soon as their name is mentioned.
One of the conversations sparked the agreement that speed of response may not be the real discussion; instead, it’s speed of resolution that will really define how successful a company is in social media (or any other business medium).
And never a truer word has been spoken. Here’s why.
The Problem With Speed of Response
In an ideal world, we (as consumers) would have answers to our questions almost as soon as we’ve asked them. If we have a problem with a product, it’ll be resolved immediately. Or we have a complaint – it’ll be heard and acted upon quicker than you can say, “Sorry, sir/miss/madam, we’ll get onto that right away.”
But the desire for that kind of brand interaction falls short of the realistic one, for several reasons.
- Legal red tape. You’d think that a simple, “We’re sorry you feel that way, and we’ll look into this for you” would suffice as an acceptable way to cover a customer issue. And it should be. The problem is, if it’s an issue that involves legal counsel, everything has to be approved. Everything. Even a simple “We hear you”. Because if a multi-million dollar lawsuit is the potential outcome (especially involving a pharmaceutical company, for example), then the company better make damn sure everything is documented and carried out to the letter of the law.
- Locale and culture differences. Say you’re a consumer in Canada, but the main team you need to speak to is in China. So there’s a time difference to start with. There are also different cultural holidays; so response times are immediately affected.
- The issue of scale. Sure, we’d all like to think our companies (either own, employed or those we buy from) are the biggest on the market, so we should expect a 24/7 every-minute-of-the-day personalization level. But that’s never going to happen. There are only so many people a business can employ and still make a profit, while allocating the right resources to customer care and crisis communications. Timescales will always be governed by numbers (both manpower and financial).
There are more reasons why the speed of response isn’t necessarily a core ingredient to a business’s success; but these three are the most common starting points. And ones that dovetail nicely into…
The Preferred Option of Speed of Resolution
Generally, consumers are smart people. We understand businesses have other customers, and that sometimes we’re maybe making a bigger deal of something than it deserves.
Yes, we’re also antsy assholes at times – but, generally, we offer leeway when we feel we’re being listened to. And “listened to” isn’t the same as “hearing”.
A company might hear me, and offer a speedy pat response, just to show that they’re listening and responding to social media standards. The problem is, a pat response shows why being heard is completely different from being listened to – nothing is usally fixed. The same issues that were there before are still there now.
However – switch that around and listen to my problem and resolve it within an acceptable timeframe? That’s far more benefecial to me than giving me faux customer love.
But that still leaves the response time issue, no? Not necessarily.
If you’re a brand, make it clear on every single customer touchpoint what your practice is for issues and queries:
- Standard customer service issues will have a response within 24 hours.
- Identified escalated issues will have a response within 12 hours.
- Emergency issues or concerns that have health implications will have a response within the hour.
Make it clear too, that a respone is not the same as a resolution. Offer timescales for internal procedures to let customers know that, to get the answer they need to really resolve the issue, the process is X departments and Y amount of days, to get to Z resolution options.
Also, make it very clear that you’re monitoring countless hundreds (if not thousands) of conversations around your customer base, and that sometimes a query or question may be missed. In that case, have an easy contact option on your business website where customers can follow the same process as social media questions, but accept that the time to reply will be dictated by submission time.
We Don’t Need You To Be Fast – Just Right
Ask the majority of customers what they prefer from the two – a speedy response, or a speedy resolution, and more times than not you’ll get the latter as the preferred choice.
It’s why customers will wait in line at the Apple Genius Bar, as opposed to going to the local computer store – they know the longer waiting time means a quality service where they’ll get their problem sorted first time, as opposed to a quick buck band-aid that leads to even more issues down the line.
While not every company can be an Apple, most consumers will prefer service like an Apple customer. And speed of response has never been Apple’s modus operandi.
Maybe that’s something we can all learn from, businesses and consumers…