Social Media and the Age of Instant Customer Service Gratification

twitter unitedWe live in a world of instant gratification. It means we want things now, and we have a growing lack of patience when our demands aren’t instantly fulfilled.

This new reality is being fuelled by social media, which has provided a global platform for consumers to put pressure on brands to provide them with not stellar customer service but almost instantaneous response.

While this is a great landscape for consumers looking for a way to publicize their problems, complaints or issues, it has also put tremendous pressure on brands to react in real-time, often without the luxury of being able to ascertain what is happening.

The question is whether instant gratification when it comes to customer services is a good thing for consumers or brands. Does it make sense for a brand to respond to a tweet within minutes or even hours after it’s posted? Should consumers realistically expect brands to respond right away, or should brand respond at all?

These are challenging questions because social media has obviously changed the consumer-brand dynamic. Before social media, a complaint by a consumer would get swallowed by a 1-800 number or email; today, a complaint is a public and transparent creative that has the potential to quickly spread.

In many respects, the pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other. With social media, consumers now have the upper hand, while brands are scrambling to figure out the new customer service paradigm and the rules of engagement.

Is this a good or healthy situation?

My take is it’s not a long-term proposition because the expectations among consumers are sky-high, and there is too much pressure on brands to dance as fast as they can.

  • Hi Mark – happy to serve as an example of some of the challenges facing those responsible for customer service. I’d also add that it took United Airlines over 65 hours to respond to my customer complaint via Twitter, and they then did so by directing me to a web form. I filled that out a week ago and have not heard anything.

    So “instantaneous response” is definitely not the order of the day – or the expectation – in this case 😉

  • Mark Evans

    Clearly, United’s customer service response systems need to be improved, particularly since you could be defined as an “influencer” who should, in theory, warrant a faster or better response. Mark

  • The fact that it took United over 65 hours to respond to Maggie’s complaint, and then directed her to a web form, is a good indicator that they truly don’t care about their customers, even after the Dave Carroll incident and all the lip they paid to solving their customer service issues. They probably would have been better off not responding to Maggie’s tweet, more-so since she is regarded as an “influencer”.

    You say we live in a world of instant gratification. We live in a world with more choices now. If people have a customer service issue they can turn to social media. They no longer have to wade through tangential IVRs, dropped phone calls, and emails that never get answered. The fact is, social media has given customers a voice. And businesses can choose to engage, or ignore their customers, at their own risk. Social has shifted the power to the customer. And let’s not forget that this evolution has been driven by people – after all, it’s people who have developed these social platforms. We are driving our own future. And well enough wasn’t good enough.

    Is it a good or healthy situation? Marketers are scared. They’ve begun to lose their ability to control the message. If they don’t adapt and engage with customers on their customers’ terms, their businesses will surely be impacted. It’s actually a very healthy situation, especially for consumers. Social Customer Service is becoming the new marketing.

    You say you don’t think that this is a long-term proposition because consumer expectations are sky-high. They were always sky-high. People want great service. We expect great service from companies we purchase from; from businesses that we do business with. What’s wrong with getting value for money? It’s just that now we have a public voice. Brands can no longer hide behind some frivolous promise that’s framed on the wall at Head Office, an outsourced Call Centre, or misleading advertising. They’re being called out by the very people that pay their corporate salaries. Hopefully, this new social communication channel will have a domino effect, and set a new standard for all the other channels that customers continue to use to engage with brands.

  • Vikram

    In my opinion, Its not the timing aspect but may be the right service/service which makes customer happy is the order of the game ? What if i give crappy answer in the next minute of posting a complaint rather than take some time and respond with a personal message or response that suits to that individual customer makes a huge difference.

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  • Your post raises an important issue, though I think worrying about whether a consumer’s desire for instant gratification is like trying to control waves in the ocean. You can try to fight them and get battered, or you can accept the inevitability and ride the wave in style.

    To Mark Orlan’s point – many marketers are scared because they still don’t get the “social” aspect of “social media”.

    Coincidentally, I’m currently conducting a survey on people’s expectations for email response times. I’d welcome your participation: