Better Business by Robb Hicken: Remember: Customer service can live on in social media

ROBB HICKEN, chief storyteller for the Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River RegionJune 11, 2013 

Robb Hicken

The horseback ride ended with a downpour. We had prepared with our rain gear, but nonetheless we got wet, so when we stopped for a soda at the gas station in Middleton, we were dripping water.

However, we were not nearly as soaked as the motorcyclists who pulled in behind us. The driver and passenger were drenched. Their leather riding gear showed the droplets, and their shoes squeaked as they walked through the store.

"Quite the downpour," the attendant said as I approached the counter. I concurred and paid.

As we stood in the doorway, the motorcycle couple dripped their way to the counter.

"Hey, you're dripping on the counter," the clerk said, as he pulled out a cloth to wipe the droplets. "That'll be $5.79."

The change in attitude because of a drop of water on a countertop could cause a ripple of bad commentary on today's social media.

Social media can be a tool to strengthen customer service and it can give consumers an outlet to complain about a company. According to a Convergys Corp. study in 2011, one bad tweet or one negative post on Facebook can lose a company up to 30 customers.

The YouTube video from the musician whose guitar allegedly was damaged by United Airlines baggage handlers (it actually ended up with three videos chronicling the experience) had more than 10 million views. News reports say that within days of the posting, United Airline's stock price dropped 10 percent in value.

That's definitely more than $5.97.

BBB offers some advice or points to consider before a wet, frustrated or angry consumer writes a blog or customer review:

Æ Social media makes complaining easy, which can potentially be false or misleading. It takes sleuthing to determine if comments posted, whether favorable or damaging, are truly filed by a customer who had a genuine experience with that business. Does an employer, a disgruntled employee or a competitor pay for those postings? Copy the postings, post in Google and see if the comments are found elsewhere - a yellow flag that they may be staged.

Æ Don't lose your sense of fairness. Using the adage from the playground, blogs and reviews can be unfair when the other side of the story is not heard or given an opportunity to respond. Consumers may use reviews that do not permit the business an opportunity to respond to the posting. Therefore, a company may not be able to modify or improve their services because they simply were uninformed.

Social media has had no effect on the number of complaints reported to Better Business Bureau, and people who use the dispute resolution services are seeking more than just venting - they are seeking resolution that may put money back in their pockets, cancel a contract, or get the job finished.

Social media doesn't always give the opportunity for those results - unless you post a creative and successful YouTube video -and not everyone can do that.

•••

rhicken@boise.bbb.org947-2115

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