Social media is an incredible tool for companies and businesses to showcase their public relations expertise at dealing with customers. On the other hand, used the wrong way, it can be a public relations bomb (and for all you hipster language folks, I don’t mean da bomb, or any other bomb in a good kinda way).

Take this example of a US woman who recently purchased an electronic device from BodyBugg and soon discovered it to be defective. She emailed the customer support department (the company includes email as an option to reach them for support) twice within a week and did not get a response.  Frustrated, the customer took her anger to Facebook.

Customer support and the influence of social mediaThis is where the company failed in a very public fashion. See the Facebook screengrab (at left for the company’s FB response to the customer). If your jaw is dropping, you are not alone. This represents an extreme example of a social media failure.

This is just one snippet of the Facebook stream. Other people started chiming in with their disgust at the condescending attitude of the company employee.

Obviously, the lessons here are simple. Treat every customer with care and concern, rather than a doofus. Have compassion. Be helpful. And remember it’s never about you. It’s ALWAYS about the customer.

Oh, and of course, every company must never forget that any post on social media is never between just you and one customer. It’s in front of the entire world, potentially. That would be like 500 million plus people in Facebook, if you’re counting. Get your response wrong, and your bad public relations may spread faster than any virus (sorry, not even Dustin Hoffman can stop it when it gets this sickly!).

Social media has changed everything for how we do business today. Companies with their heads in the sand forget that unhappy customers take their beefs to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and any other tool they can find.

When customers use these tools in a negative way, your company better have a very big shovel handy. Screwing up customer service on social media will leave you digging out of a big hole.

Oh, and one more thing….. you never know who you are dealing with. In the case of BodyBugg, it got sarcastic on social media with a woman who just happens to be the social media director at a U.S. university.