Why "Social Media Centers of Excellence" Are Not Excellent for Customers

I have Verizon internet (and TV, and phone) at home. For the past six months or more, we've been having issues with the internet dropping...but only intermittently. Every day, for part of the day, it works--but every day, for parts of the day, it doesn't. Annoying, especially when you're trying to work and your kids are trying to do homework, no?

A few months ago, after realizing the issue wasn't going to spontaneously fix itself, I got my husband to call Verizon to schedule a service call. I LOATHE phone customer service and avoid it at all costs. The tech came out, did what he thought would fix the issue, and he gave us his direct number and said to call him if it wasn't fixed. It wasn't fixed...but because the issue was only intermittent and because I hate dealing with customer service issues, I procrastinated calling him back because it meant yet another day of juggling schedules and being stuck in the house for a four-hour window. Finally, after another month of intermittent outages, I called him...only to be told that since a month had gone by, we would have to re-initiate the issue with Verizon to get him to come back. So my husband called from work, was put on hold for an eternity, then was finally told that he had to call from the home phone because before they could send a technician out they had to troubleshoot the issue via the home phone. Seriously?

So I did what anyone in my shoes would have done--went to Verizon's Facebook page and complained -how arbitrary this one-month-then-go-back-to-square-one rule was, as was the sit-on-hold-then-be-told-you-have-to-be-calling-from-home thing. And, as is becoming part of the playbook for customer service now, within a few minutes I received a message from the Verizon social media person asking what a good time would be for someone to call to help me. He called--introducing himself as "Verizon social media"--and helped me. Said if it wasn't fixed to send a Facebook message back and they'd send me a new router. It wasn't fixed, I sent the Facebook message, and they sent the new router. It still wasn't fixed. I figured I'd have to call and get the technician to come again. Called. Sat on hold for 10 minutes, then spent 20 minutes with the customer service agent with her S-L-O-W-L-Y giving me directions on different things to troubleshoot, none of which were working. After 35 minutes, exasperated, I said "can't you just schedule someone to come fix it?" and she said "no, I can't--we have to do all this troubleshooting first before I can schedule a service call." I said I had to go to a meeting; she said I'd have to call back later to finish it before I could get a technician to visit my house. 

Again, I took to Facebook, sending the social media person a message expressing my frustration. She sent me a message right back "I can schedule a technician to come to your house--what day is good for you?" I wrote back, and a few minutes later she wrote back confirming the day and timeframe for my technician visit.

Why such different script from Verizon's customer service people and their social media customer service people? Why is there one set of procedures for the regular customer service people--excruciating "troubleshooting" exercises over the phone before they can schedule a technician--versus the social media customer service people? Being a social media person, I suspect it's because social media is marketing and customer service is customer service. I've written about this concept before--a bunch of times--because I'm kind of obsessed with the weird dynamic between customer service and social media, and how they're sort of the same but also worlds apart in many ways. Why is it ok with companies that the customer experience with customer service versus social media customer service is so vastly different? Why was the Verizon person I dealt with on the phone so surly, slow, and unable to help me while the social media person polite, super-fast, and able to help in exactly the way I needed, in the way I needed? How are legions of burnt-out customer service reps going to magically transform into perky social media customer service people? How long will it take until the new clutch of eager social media people turn into burnt-out customer service people? When will brands realize that the customer experience with the two being so vastly different is not a good thing?

In order for social media and customer service to meld together into the much-revered "social media center of excellence" model, brands are going to have to address this disconnect and realize that while the whole social customer service thing might look excellent on the inside and get the company all sorts of accolades in terms of the whole social business thing, if the customer's experience is still crappy some or most of the time, then it's not excellent. Checking off the box of social media customer service while leaving traditional customer service untouched is ultimately a recipe for failure, because a confused customer isn't necessarily a happy customer.