How Companies Active On Social Media Can Still Come Out Looking Bad

Social media is a great way to get in touch with companies, often to let them know that things aren’t meeting your level of satisfaction.  Many companies have realized that social media customer service is a concept they need to embrace. In fact, many organizations employ or outsource social media specialists.  Their  job is to build and maintain their customer service relationships through social media networks.

I’ve found that that social media customer responsiveness falls into three groups.  Originally, I had two groups:

  • Companies who are good at social media and customer service
  • Companies who are bad at it

But after a couple of recent interactions, I decided that there is now a definitive third option:

  • Companies who are just sort of trying

Here are two recent encounters that illustrate my point.

My Recent Example: RecycleBank

Our city took over trash and recycling pickup services a few years back.  Now everybody has pickup on the same daymb-2016-01-boxes based on your location, everybody pays the same rate (which is cheaper than it used to be), and everybody has bins provided that they use.

One incentive that they offer is a tie-in with RecycleBank, a company that offers ‘rewards’ for recycling.  For each pickup, our recycling is logged, and we automatically receive points in our RecycleBank account.  These points can be used toward redemption of a variety of things, like percentage off coupons, gift cards, etc.  They advertise as affiliating with national and local companies.

At first, it was pretty cool.  There were a few local restaurants and stores that participated, as well as national retailers.  We never had a problem turning in our points, whether it be for a Home Depot gift card or a percentage off a meal at a local Greek diner.

Then, slowly, the number of new rewards went down and down.  Eventually, they stopped.  Finally  to top it off, existing rewards started going away.

Now, there are but a handful of rewards, and virtually all of them are just not worthwhile to use.  So our point total stacks up and stacks up.

This seems to be the norm everywhere.

I’ve written on their Facebook wall, always very politely, about how it’s disappointing that rewards are going away and that new ones are not being added.  Other people write the same thing.

When A Response Isn’t A Response

RecycleBank always responds.  Which is great.  However, it’s always the same respond.  Paraphrasing “Thanks for your feedback.  We’re aware that our selections are out of stock and we’re sorry you’re disappointed.  We’re always working toward new opportunities.  Keep recycling!”

That’s it.  So, they get credit for replying.  But…

  • Are they answering the question?  Nope.
  • Are they providing a solution?  Nope.
  • Are they providing an estimate of when things might return or get added?  Nope.
  • Are they even taking ownership?  Nope.

This is how companies fall into the ‘new’ third category.  They respond to every inquiry, but they don’t really provide an actual response.  It’s patronizing.  The company, in essence, are patting you on the head and just hoping you’d go away.

That’s little better than providing an actual answer.  At least in my opinion.  Now, I get it, they’re providing a ‘free’ service.  Still, if you’re going to go through the trouble of signing people up, sending out e-mails, partnering with communities, and organizations and companies, and if you’re going through the effort of putting a customer service presence on social media, why just go halfway?

I don’t get it.

Consultants At Work?

This seems to be more the new norm, and I hate it.  I’m sure there are some consultants out there for social media telling the executives that they need to “be active in the social media space”, but that they need to “make sure to keep the responses positive”, and how offering answers that could be “perceived as negative” could “hurt the brand” and blah, blah, blah.

Or in a word: Baloney.

Personally, if companies are going to be active in the social media space, I’d prefer they either go all the way or not bother at all.  Trying to straddle the line in the middle is trying to please everyone, while in reality, nobody actually gets anything close to what they want.

Now there are a lot of companies out there that still fall into the first category, where by they answer truthfully and directly to each question, not just providing a ‘copy and paste’ type response.  These companies are great, and I applaud them.  I really hope that more companies follow their lead, and for the companies who are trying out this ‘middle ground’ idea, I really hope that they quit and get on board with real, full-out social media customer service!

Readers, have you experienced this social media presence where you get responded to but you don’t actually feel like the company bothered?  Share your examples in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

12 thoughts on “How Companies Active On Social Media Can Still Come Out Looking Bad”

  1. I experience this with my health insurance company. I have been fighting a “mystery fee” for lab work from a “wellness visit” from almost a year ago. I call the service provider and the insurance company…. think I have it straightened out. Then I get a new bill…rinse and repeat. EVERY time I call the CSR asks me if this is the 1st time I have called on this matter….NO. And at the conclusion the CSR ask me if they “solved my problem”….NO. I share your pain…. As for your “recycling incentive plan”…. sounds pretty good on paper. BUT in my “neck of the woods”, municipalities are having a fit because recycled material prices have “fallen off the table” and now it is actually “costing” money to run recycling operations. The original plan was for these recycling operations to one day pay for the whole municipal waste operation. But with low prices for “recyclables” the thought now is to raise fees to compensate….This may be why your “rewards” plan seems to be floundering.

    • Lab work ripoffs! This is another reason we need a single-payer health care system… A lab tried to soak me for several hundred dollars for a test for BRAC (genetic flaw predisposing you to breast cancer), saying Medicare had rejected their claim.. I’d never heard that test was done on me, never heard any results…and if I had BRAC, I wouldn’t have arrived at the grand old age of 70 without developing breast cancer. The Mayo, which outsources to this lab, said they hadn’t ordered it. The lab gave me a runaround.

      Sent a complaint, in writing, to Medicare, saying i believed this was a fraudulent claim. Medicare’s worthies informed me that the claim was declined because it was sent after Medicare’s deadline for such claims. In other words, if the lab had sent the bogus claim promptly, it would have collected hundreds of dollars for doing nothing.

      Never heard another word from the lab. Eventually a piece of paper from Medicare arrived stating that I owed that outfit $0.00…

      Nice thing about having the federal government behind your health insurance: They have some serious clout when it comes to fraud and abuse of patients.

  2. I like how you have a “rant” category for your posts.

    It’s nice to know that someone is aware of your complaint, which is better than writing a letter or email, and never receiving a response. However, I agree that there really isn’t much of a point if they’re just going to provide some automated and general response.

  3. Oooh yes, Men’s Wearhouse! They have horrible customer service, no matter where you try to contact them, and after they provided terrible service and blew me off, well! On principle (and outrage) I pursued them until they offered some kind of resolution. It was a pathetic attempt at resolution, particularly since I had to follow up with them for months, but it made me feel a little better that I forced them to cough up anything.

    That was 5 years ago and I’m still mad at them 😀

    Paypal is another. They have awful policies and make no attempt to respond to reasonable requests.

  4. I sent a complain about my experience in beauty-wellness establishment. I never got a reply from them, which is really annoying. I tried sending my complain to their social media site, which they are so active. But still, I got no reply. Because of this, I never go back to them and look for a better one.

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