Twitter, Facebook, Customer Service and Surgery

Yeah, yeah, yeah — been long, I know.  Busy, you know? Plenty going on, plenty behind us and even more ahead of us — going to be a banner year this 2011 (what? it is? August of 2012? really?) — I meant, this 2012…

So, I had a great chat yesterday with a friend and client, the CEO of FuzeDigital (Chuck Van Court).  We were talking about the best way to use Twitter and Facebook for customer service, especially when the data shows it is a poor solution for both customers and organizations: I mean, takes 4,800-7,200 times longer to get an answer on them than via the phone – and usually not as accurate… but I digress.

We were talking about using them social channels as escalation entry points to provide the service you really should be providing via channels that, without giving you painful flashbacks and deja-vu, you spent the past 15-20 years perfecting.  

In the middle of the discussion we came to a point where an analogy was necessary.  Mind you, this is what I do – I spend the day finding analogies to explain why something works or doesn’t, and what an individual or corporation should do when faced with different situations:  this is my bread and butter.  I should be able to do this — and, lo and behold I did.

Here is the best analogy / explanation of why trying to provide customer service via those channels is done poorly.

Here is how it works…let’s say you have a problem, any problem.  You go to Twitter or Facebook, you complain loudly, and you expect the company you are complaining about to bring their people, processes, resources, and expertise to this new channel (with their many limitations and problems as well as lack of integration into their existing infrastructure) and give you a quick, complete, and comparable solution or answer to what you would’ve experienced through other channels (which they know and used for some time, perfecting the process of delivering solutions) — in far less time.  

These are your “expectations”.

Now, let’s switch the scenario so you can understand why that does not work… Let’s say your appendix is about to burst — it hurts and you want a solution; you need to get it out ASAP.  What are you going to do? Are you going to go to the hospital and expect them do surgery there?  

Or are you going to expect the surgeon to come to your house with their team of nurses, anesthesiologists and other professional (not to mention equipment and infrastructure) and remove your appendix in only five minutes?


Before you tell me how this is different from business – the surgeon makes their living performing surgery, that is what they do, their business.  All they do.  However, they know their business is best performed in highly controlled settings with processes, people, and technology that they know how it behaves under different circumstances and how it delivers results.  

Customer Service done well also relies in specific processes, people, tools and circumstances to work at peak effectiveness. Yet we insist that organizations should live that behind to cater to our “social tantrums”.

Even if you scream really loud in pain while on the phone wit your doctor, his advice remains the same: go to the hospital and get treated.

Why do we expect different from businesses and customer service?