Be sure to verify a comment or question, before you respond

Online customer service is surrounded by common sense advice. Don’t feed the trolls, keep customers informed even if you can’t help them straight away. That sort of thing.

Happily, most teams we meet are increasingly well versed in this advice.

However, there’s one area we don’t hear people mention very often, and it really should be near the top of that list of advice.

That area is verification.

Kate ran two crisis communication training sessions for CIPR Cymru last week (you can see the highlights on the #trustinpr hashtag). The sessions involved one of our world famous* simulations and participants had to deal with a number of different characters live, online, in a private environment.

In among these characters was a bit of a know-it-all. Someone with an axe to grind who would go to some lengths to get their point heard. I bet you’ve seen or heard someone similar online.

Often, we see characters like this who reference information or share images of something unrelated or false. They might say they have inside knowledge of an organisation or process, when in fact they’ve never worked there.

As a civil servant responsible for official social media channels, I was twice faced with an accusatory tweet and a screen grab of data. Supposedly this data was on a page from an official report, which of course, it wasn’t. The report either didn’t exist, or wasn’t official.


In the race to be the best at customer service online, it’s easy to get swept up in responding, dismissing or panicking too quickly. I should know.

Instead we should pause, verify the sender, her connection with the organisation and the authenticity of what she’s saying. It shouldn’t take long to cross reference a profile against a staff directory, or have a colleague thoroughly check over that screen grab.

There are lots of other useful ways to verify online content. This free online book is one of the best resources available.