Aug 07

 Flying through customer service with social media


Social media has many faces: time-waster, social-changer, customer servicer, marketing producer, socializer, rant blaster, celebrity booster, family connector, marriage destroyer, matchmaker, friendship definer.

Companies have to identify how to insert a meaningful message into the mix of messages that fills the company’s goal.

I recently visited the social media lab of one of the major airlines with an easy following in the millions. The company uses social media for three purposes: Serve. Engage. Sell. These three goals are distinctive, complementary and require intentional effort. Every social media platform isn’t effective for each of these goals.

These are three categories that will help compartmentalize and focus the role of each social media post.

  • Serve refers to customer service. Social media is a place to respond to customer inquiries.
  • Engage refers to building a relationship with customers, turning them from casual users to loyal promotors.
  • Sell refers to turning social media interactions into tangible sales transactions.

One of the best pieces of advice from the social media manager: Look like a friend. Act like a friend.

That succinctly covers all of the faces of social media in one simple step. Anything you post will be surrounded by a newborn nephew, an amateur video of a concert, a political rant, cat video and inspirational quote. Your post should fit seamlessly into that news feed. It shouldn’t be automated, regimented, distant or robotic. It should be easy, casual, high quality and considerate. Don’t waste someone’s time and don’t show an amateurish understanding of how social media works with overproduced corporate or forced language.

In the case of large companies with a high volume of customers like an airline, there’s a staffed team of agents responding 24 hours a day to complaints and compliments from travelers. Sometimes they get an opportunity to shine. One person tweeted disappointment that there was no coffee on the plane. The airline was able to arrange for everyone to get a cup of coffee as they disembarked the plane at their destination. That isn’t possible every time, but this one gesture shows they’re listening. It sends a message to all customers that they care and can be spontaneously nice, thoughtful and human.

It also gave them a public relations boost that turned average or neutral customers to enthusiastic promotors. It’s a travel experience they won’t forget. Some of the passengers later posted about how nice it was. That creates brand loyalty and amplified influence.

There are even bolder gestures of customer service that are possible emanating from a social media interaction.  Imagine a passenger’s reaction if a gourmet basket of peanuts was waiting for him when he disembarked. That’s one-on-one customer service that can have exponential influence by posting it on social media.

Social media is customer service on public display.

Look like a friend. Act like a friend. That’s good customer service in a (pea)nutshell.


Rochelle Gilken is a social media consultant, strategist, storyteller, wordsmith and consultant based in West Palm Beach FL. She is a regular contributor to this blog as our Social Media columnist. She can be reached at rochellegilken@icloud.com.

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