Companies are jumping on the social media bandwagon faster than most of us change our socks. Everyday a company opens a Twitter account, creates a Facebook page and assigns some social media evangelist the job of Facebooking (is that a word?) and Tweeting the mantra of their company brand.
But whoa there Mr. Big Company…let me suggest that before you begin, you take a look at the big picture and consider a little bit of employee training. Now, your reply might be that Twitter and Facebook aren’t difficult to maneuver (and that would be correct). So why the training? I’m not talking about training for the person who’s in charge of Twittering (although it would be a smart move to give your CTO – Chief Twitter Officer – a lesson in promoting your brand.) I’m talking about customer service training.
Case in point. Sears has rolled out a new website called MySears Community. MySears.com allows me to write reviews, participate in discussions, and comment on blogs. Now, let me tell you about my most recent experience at Sears:
I recently purchased a vacuum cleaner hose. The sales clerk told me that the hose was the correct one for the model number I gave her. It wasn’t. So I went to return it. On the day I went to the store, there were 6 employees working the department (all talking to each other.) Eventually, someone came over to assist me.
I explained the situation and the customer service rep said that I couldn’t return the hose in the store. She also said that I couldn’t order the right hose in the store, saying I would need to call an 800 number to find out how to return the item and order a new one. I asked her to call (while I was in the store) and she begrudgingly did so. While she was on hold, I listened the rep complain about being on hold, not being able to speak with a person, and not being happy about coming into work on a weekend. Once the rep was finally able to speak with a human being, she was told that she would have to wait 90 minutes for an answer because the computers were down. (Side note: Is this how Sears employees treat each other? Hmmm…)
At that point, I asked to speak to a manager. Another rep told me where the manager’s office was located. When I asked if the manager could come speak to me, he replied that the manager “sits on her ass all day” and it might be better for me to go to her office. (No folks, I’m not joking.)
So I went to the manager’s office. The manager wasn’t there. But I did tell my story to the assistant manager. Who then grabbed three employees and made me tell my story again (obviously someone will be getting into trouble and needed a few witnesses.)
At the end of my conversation, I got a refund for the vacuum cleaner hose and they gave me directions on how to order the correct part. I’m not sure why that couldn’t have happened 45 minutes earlier at the department level.
But the moral of this story is not about my vacuum cleaner hose. It’s about the fact that the last thing Sears wants is for me to share my experience on the MySears site. Companies need to remember that, if you’re going to create a platform for customer comments…be prepared for what those customer comments might be. More importantly, prepare (train) your staff on how to correctly interact with customers to avoid getting social media egg all over your face.
Being transparent is about more than having a Facebook or Twitter account and tossing up a community website. The benefit of transparency is to show off what a great company you are. It’s about proper engagement at every level in the organization. But, if you don’t have that great company to begin with, transparency will show the world why they shouldn’t do business with you.