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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why Social Media Can’t Replace a Help Desk

With the endless proclamations of how crucial social media is to business, a discussion of its difficulties and limitations often gets lost in the hype. Use of socialmedia in customer service certainly has value and shouldn’t be neglected, but there’s a clear limit to what can be accomplished with it. Communication through social media is no substitute for the features and functionality available through a good help desk. To get the most out of both a social media presence and a help desk, it’s important to have a sense of the best uses for each and how to most effectively integrate them.

The way different people use their social media accounts varies considerably. Some spend large amounts of time each day checking in on Twitter and Facebook feeds to contribute their thoughts and ideas, while others let days or more pass in between visits. If the primary form of communication a business has with a customer is through social media, there’s the risk of long lags between each reply. This can extend the time it takes to resolve an issue that could have been handled quickly through a help desk. While it is possible to miss important feedback and questions through social media due to timing, all issues can be tracked with a Help desk to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

Even for users who are likely to check their social media accounts frequently, using social media for extended communication has the clear downside of restrictive character limits. Most problems a customer’s likely to experience will require more explanation than can be expressed on Twitter in 140 characters or less. Understanding the particulars of a customer problem and its desired solution requires a back and forth likely to be slow and drawn out over social media, to the frustration of all involved. In contrast, a Help Desk makes it easy for customers and customer service representatives to provide as much information as needed at each step in the process and enables faster response times.

While the public nature of social media can certainly be a benefit, sometimes providing customer service requires the exchange of sensitive information. In most cases, a customer will be less likely to offer up personal details over social media and a customer service representative should never ask for anything sensitive over a public forum. Further, often the nitty gritty details of a customer service complaint aren’t something a company wants broadcast to a wide audience. It’s good to be able to publicly show a quick response to any complaints a customer makes, but there’s a point where the discussion about a customer issue on social media becomes more of a liability than an opportunity to publicly demonstrate great customer service.

A company should make a point to be aware of and quickly respond to any complaints that appear on social media, but a presence on social media doesn’t mean a full customer service correspondence should play out within that space. When a customer with a complaint is identified, respond quickly and with a suggestion to move the correspondence off the social media channel, including an e- mail address, phone number or link to fill out a ticket request on your help desk. A quick response shows you’re attentive and proactive about solving the problem, without restricting both parties to an awkward, drawn out conversation over a medium not designed to host one. View social media as just one aspect of customer service, it can be the first step in a longer conversation that occurs primarily through tools better designed for that purpose.


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