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Changes to Facebook pages could be bad news for customer service.

It was interesting to see the new study by Martiz Research, which showed that 71% of customers who tweeted a gripe said they never heard back from the company, despite the fact that most of them would have liked to.

And whilst that survey was all about Twitter, it stands to reason that if you go the effort of finding a Facebook page and posting your gripe on it, you really do expect a response.

But, judging by recent research by Socialbakers you’d likely be waiting a long time, as only 5% of brands bother to answer people who take the time to post questions on their wall.

One very interesting idea to come from 'Chinwag Live: When Customer Service Goes Social' was that often the perception of whether their complaint was correctly handled was not about the resolution of the problem itself: it was about the journey.

That is to say, if the customer is dealt with in a prompt, friendly and respectful fashion, they still feel positively towards the brand, even if (for example) they can't in the end get their refund.

It's being ignored, dismissed or treated rudely which turns us off a brand, despite a positive resolution. If it was a battle to get it, you've lost a customer (and all of their friends).

At the same Chinwag session, the recent changes to Facebook Pages were discussed: the withdrawal of the customer service tab and the new facility to post on a Page without first 'liking' it.

You don't have to be a genius to see that both changes could be very bad news for customer service.

Customer service plays, or should play, an important part of the role of a brand page. The discussion tab worked reasonably well for customer service issues: it was archivable, if correctly signposted, users knew where to go with their issues and could look there for answers to queries, and it kept complaints away from the engaging conversation of the wall.

Now that a user no longer has to 'like' a page in order to post on it, this has removed a considerable psychological and physical barrier to posting complaints (why would you want to engage with a brand you were having problems with?).

The likelihood is that this will increase the level of complaints, and even those who are closely monitoring their Pages will find themselves challenged to take the conversations elsewhere.

Yes, the facility exists to ‘private message’ users who have posted, but only those who have left their privacy settings wide open to allow anyone to IM them.

iPlatform has had second thoughts about creating a replacement feedback tab for brand pages. Its research has shown that a significant majority of brand/customer engagement happens on the Wall, and that while a small number of people may go to a feedback tab, or the defunct discussions section, most of them would and will continue to choose to post on the wall.

This isn’t really a surprise. People who take the time to post questions or complaints obviously want an answer, or want their particular issue to be seen by others, and the wall is the most obvious place for this.

But it is in the brands’ interests to clearly signpost the best area for an answer to questions, and make sure that fans can see they will get a response there. 

With or without a replacement to the Discussion tab, brands will have to up their game when it comes to responding to these queries, or suffer the reputational consequences.   

Tamara Littleton

Published 27 October, 2011 by Tamara Littleton

 Tamara Littleton is CEO at social media management agency Emoderation and a contributor on Econsultancy.

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