With around 1.7 billion social network users in the world, SOCIAL MEDIA is one of the most popular ways for people to share their opinions. could this be the future of customer service?

Although social networking has only taken off in the last 10 years, more and more businesses are using it as a platform to offer customer service in new and different ways.

Social media makes it much easier to complain, and not only complain directly to a business, but to broadcast the complaint publicly. More and more businesses today are taking this opportunity and are using social networking as a platform for offering customer service in a different way.

The search functions of Facebook and Twitter, combined with the use of hashtags, make it easier than ever for people to “tag” and direct their complaint to the company while allowing everyone else to see it.

However, these functions also allow companies to monitor what has been said and respond quickly and publicly. This is where social media can be used advantageously for customer service, underscoring that companies are interested in the complaint and are looking to make the customer happy.

The leading exponents can turn a complaint and bad word-of-mouth into something positive, showing the company is listening to the customer and, in trying to help customers, it can work wonders for the reputation of the business. A good example of social media customer service is what airline JetBlue provides on Twitter.

An unhappy JetBlue customer, Cassidy Quinn, took to Twitter to complain about her flight, tweeting: “Dear @JetBlue, next time can you fix the plane before we all get on it?! Fingers crossed I do not miss my next connecting flight…”

JetBlue replied quickly, offering a sincere apology and confirming that the flight would be on its way very shortly. Not only was JetBlue efficient and reassuring in its response, it turned Cassidy’s complaint into a positive by way of good customer service. She later thanked JetBlue, tweeting: “@JetBlue Thanks for the super quick response! Luckily I made my connecting flight! #happy #phew”

Social media customer service may be more common, but that doesn’t mean that every company is doing it well. Many provide worse customer service via social media.

British Airways’ poor customer service was broadcast to thousands of people on Twitter when, annoyed by BA’s failure to locate his father’s lost baggage, Hassan Syed paid for his tweet rebuking BA to be promoted on its public newsfeed. Hassan tweeted: “Don’t fly @British_Airways their customer service is horrendous.”

British Airways not only then failed to reply for 8 hours, but when they did eventually respond, it was of no help to the customer at all: The airline blamed “Twitter opening hours” for the late reply. A furious Hassan replied with a witty tweet, criticizing British Airways further: “@British_Airways how does a billion dollar corp only have a 9-5 social media support for a business that operates 24/7? DM me yourselves.”

The tweets went viral, with around 76 000 people seeing Hassan’s tweet and hundreds re-tweeting and favoriting them, publically shaming British Airways’ customer service.

The best customer service is not all about complaints. By searching social media platforms, businesses can find other generic and subtle comments that may relate to them. This gives them an opportunity to create conversations directly with customers.

It may be that someone is commenting on needing smaller sizes to be stocked in a certain product, allowing the business to create a conversation with them and ensure them that they will look into the matter.

Having conversations with customers, responding to complaints and generally answering customers queries highlights how social media can be utilized as a platform for good customer service and is a great way to grow as a business and actually deliver what people want to see.

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