In direct defiance of a growing trend in social media, cable TV and media giant Charter Communications has pulled its customer service platform via social media, instead choosing to revert back to telephone and website channels, or face-to-face service counters, for handling complaints and other issues.
The company, which closed its “Umatter2Charter” unit in December, services over 5 million customers in half of the states in the U.S., making it the fourth-largest cable provider in the country. The social media team worked through both Twitter and Facebook to handle customer complaints in a rather public way.
Charter spokesman Anita Lamont says, “While social media is a method some consumers choose to seek help, Charter offers phone and web-based contact solutions where all customers can access resources to provide assistance.”
While Charter provides no actual explanation for its withdrawal from the social media space, there is some evidence to suggest that this kind of social platform may not be the most effective for all businesses. Brands that are successful at this service, such as Zappos, show that they are very responsive in solving customer issues. This works for solving a defective article of clothing or a poor service experience, but it is not quite as easy to pull off when dealing with things that lie out of the control of a customer service agent, such as a widespread cable or Internet service outage. In this case, a social channel might get overwhelmed with thousands of irate comments with little means to personally appease each one, a liability on such a public forum.
The company’s move highlights that, for some businesses and content marketers, the always-on, high exposure social networking world can backfire, especially when the comment volumes exceed what personnel can respond to. The upshot will be that many businesses will likely rethink their social media use and ask themselves whether anything beyond marketing messages belong on these platforms. For some companies, that answer will be “no,” and will require a need for a retooling of their social strategy.
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