A story about United Airlines and leggings recently went viral.
The gist was the airline was accused of denying boarding to two teenage girls because they were wearing leggings. There's more to the story, but in the rush to share the news, many reporters wrote misleading headlines or got critical facts wrong.
It all started with a tweet from an uninformed bystander.
Tiffany Funk did an excellent job covering the story on the One Mile at a Time blog. It's an excellent read that reveals many facts and misunderstandings.
What jumps out at me is this story presents a reminder that social media is increasingly critical to both Public Relations and Customer Care.
I turned to the new 2016 Customer Experience Benchmark report from Execs In The Know and COPC, Inc. for the latest trends on this important channel. You can purchase the full report on the Execs In The Know website (it's a comprehensive read).
Here are some of the highlights that really stand out for me.
Trend #1: Which Department Owns Social Media?
In a situation like the one United Airlines faced, ownership is critical.
It was part Public Relations, where members of the public were outraged because of some false information. It was also part customer service, where the bystander sending the tweets to @united was still a United Airlines passenger.
That means these functions must work closely together, but only 21 percent of companies surveyed share responsibility between customer care, PR, and marketing. Here's the breakdown:
One positive sign is that more companies than ever before are providing their social customer care agents with training.
Trend #2: Lack of Full Commitment
Many companies still aren't fully committed to social media as a customer care channel.
The report reveals several areas where many companies are lacking. The first one is offering a consistent experience across all channels.
I suspect that "Somewhat" in this case really means, "No, but I wish it was Yes."
Only 49 percent of organizations surveyed said there were plans in place to address this issue, so it's likely to be an issue for awhile.
Now, look at how many companies engage in quality monitoring on social care interactions versus traditional channels like phone and email:
This shows that many companies aren't really taking social media seriously as a customer care channel. This trend is even more evident when you look at where customer satisfaction is measured:
This is not to suggest that quality monitoring or customer satisfaction measurement should look exactly the same for phone and Twitter interactions. The key is having some process in place to ensure consistency and then adapting that process to each channel's unique characteristics.
Trend #3: Response Time
Response time can be crucial.
In my interview with Al Hopper, co-founder of SocialPath Solutions, he described a situation where a company tweeted Black Friday sales promotions, but didn't respond when customers tweeted back noting the company's website was down.
Those customers felt ignored, especially when the company sent out another pre-scheduled promotional tweet without responding to customers.
Today's social media customers want fast responses, but just 36 percent of companies surveyed report responding to customers in an hour or less. Contrast that with what customers say, where 61 percent want a response within the hour.
Even worse than a slow response is no response. According to a report by Sprout Social, the brands they monitor reply to just 11 percent of social media messages from customers.
It's time for social media to be treated as a mature customer care channel. Fortunately, there are now several resources to help you.
One is a new book by social media expert Dan Gingiss, called Winning at Social Customer Care. It provides step-by-step guidance for setting up and running a team to manage this important channel.
Another option is my training video, How to Serve Customers Via Social Media. Like Gingiss's book, it gives you step-by-step instructions for serving your customers on a wide variety of social media channels.