I was involved in a discussion the other day about whether customer service has a place on a brand’s Facebook Page or not. There are obviously two sides to this viewpoint but my personal opinion is that customer service and support do have a clear place on Facebook.

From what I have observed on Facebook brand pages, customers will often come to a Facebook Page with a support issue for the following reasons:

  • They are frustrated and haven’t been able to get support from other channels (physical, phone, online) and they are looking for an avenue to escalate
  • They have a product query and the answer isn’t immediately obvious on the brand website
  • They are travelling and it is the fastest, cheapest and most convenient way for them to contact the brand
  • They want to post a comment or opinion in a public place

If there are privacy or confidential matters then the conversation needs to move offline, but a significant portion can be answered on quickly, on the spot, on the Page. Customers who have had a positive service experience will tell others – that’s how social media works, right? And customers who write on your Wall and get no response will likewise tell others.

Some brands have tried to tackle this by moving the customer support to a custom tab on their Facebook Page for support, such as Australia Post.

As you can see, there are plenty of comments in here (it is the default landing tab for their Facebook Page), and interestingly enough they are sorted by ‘Social Ranking’. A quick look at the Facebook Wall though shows a steady stream of comments still being posted there regardless of the Customer Care tab. This might suggest that Fans don’t want to use the custom tab, or don’t know it is there. However it does beg the question of whether there any point in having a custom tab if you still need to monitor the Wall as well for posts requiring a response.

Some brands like Starbucks seem to just ignore comments on their Wall. I’m not sure what the strategy behind that is – getting no response from a brand is not a good sign. Visitors to the page see a stream of unanswered posts – this reflects poorly on the brand and also suggests the page is not monitored (a cardinal sin).

Other brands, like McDonalds, have closed off the Facebook Wall so comments can’t be posted. This just forces customers to post their comments on a McDonalds status update – which everyone can see. Foiled, much?

Lastly, here is a Facebook case study on AT&T who only use the Facebook Wall for customer service. Two of the key lessons here were: Customer service on Facebook does not need to require additional development work, and investing in customer service on Facebook can build brand favorability. It is great to see Facebook showing strong support for customer service in the easiest, most convenient place for Facebook fans: the Wall.

If social media is all about listening (“Be part of the conversation” “Customers will still talk about about you regardless of whether you are there or not” “If you are on social media then you have an opportunity to respond” etc etc), then why would you ignore a customer who has tracked you down on Facebook to ask a question or request support – it’s a golden opportunity missed.

Brands don’t hang up on customers when they phone up the call centre, so don’t do it on social media either.

Do you think customer service should be provided on Facebook Pages? Let me know in the comments.

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Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Totally agree. I think some brands see their Facebook Page purely as their own marketing channel. When a customer complains using that channel, the brand treats it like the customer has interrupted their promotional activity and has tarnished the strength of their marketing by publishing negative comments on it. Didn’t WestPac recently get caught out for deleting fan’s negative comments from their Facebook Wall? That’s like saying ‘we love dealing with our community so long as you’re all positive and happy’.

    In so many cases this comes down to a lack of understanding of Facebook. Like you said – if a brand like McDonald’s stops the ability for customers to place comments, those customers will just turn to their own profiles instead (possibly even @ mentioning the brand page if that setting is still available, therefore gaining placement on the page anyway and even in a way that means the brand may not be able to comment on it!) and the brand will no longer have the ability to address the complaint and show the world that it’s been resolved.

    To some extent, the Facebook Page for Jetstar NZ is an example of a practice to limit how much fans can post on their wall that fails if the fan knows what they’re doing. For whatever reason, they’ve removed the ability for fan’s to post images on their Facebook Page. Fans can only post comments and links (although posting a link will still show images in the link preview and you could even post a YouTube video and have that play directly from your comment). But this can be completely over-ridden as a fan by simply posting an image to your own profile and @ mentioning the brand. See my photo as an example! (https://www.facebook.com/JetstarNZ?sk=wall&filter=1). I’m fairly sure if I had tighter security on my own profile, Jetstar wouldn’t even be able to comment on this and it’s on their own page. Bet that’s confused ’em.

    I think some brands are also unaware of the ability to switch the default wall view from ‘Everyone’ to ‘posts by the Page’. This has advantages and disadvantages but can effectively mean that (loosely) customer service is mostly handled on the ‘Everyone’ wall view while marketing messages from the brand are more prominently displayed on the default view.

    Either way, this could all be set to change when the ‘timeline for brands’ comes out.

  2. Good, quick, transparent customer service IS marketing, isn’t it? when I see a page that contains questions and solutions, I’m very impressed with the brand. I do favour the special landing page tab solution but I don’t think that stops posts to the main page – and I’m not convinced it’s too much of a burden to monitor both. The tab shows clearly that customer service is a priority, imo. And that’s a good thing to be saying to a SM community.

    • “Good, quick, transparent customer service IS marketing, isn’t it?” < – this! So true. It's practically a real-time case study of that brand's customer service skills.

  3. Don’t think you have a choice really – if you’re serious about setting out your stall and asking people to engage with you – yinnow, being social – OF COURSE they’re going to ask you questions about your products, if they’re going well or messing up. And yes, that’s a golden opportunity to help, and make people feel better about being a customer of yours. It can be challenging to manage all right, but if you ignore or delete posts from customers, you’re doing your brand damage.

  4. I can understand why this argument crops up. Twitter continues to grow as a customer service and care channel while the Facebook success stories that we see profiled tend to be brand and marketing inspired initiatives. A lot of them don’t do much other than enhance brand sentiment – they don’t really enable the customer, they’re just clever and lovely. And there’s nothing wrong with that – it should be part of the mix.

    There’s also a bit of an industry that’s developed around augmenting Facebook and the development of apps often surfaces as the preferred or pitched solution when basic Facebook functionality would suffice.

    I tend to be of the opinion that we don’t get a choice about where people seek solutions to problems because to a certain extent we’re there by their grace. We can’t have the good and the nice and then disable the ability for the bad to surface.

    Having said that if there’s any coaxing of customers to be done around how they use these channels, I like Telstra’s ‘Ask the Crowd’ app https://www.facebook.com/Telstra?sk=app_278348432183424. It’s essentially no more than a forum of ye olden day times but there’s something about enabling your online community to help each other solve problems that appeals.

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