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Companies Falling Behind in Social Customer Service

The combined immediacy and reach of social media has the power to galvanize customer service and companies have been quick to embrace this channel for instant communication with customers. Or so we’ve been told. But a UK study suggests that many companies aren’t using social customer service as well as they could.

The study, carried out by multichannel customer interaction management software provider Eptica, evaluated UK companies on their online customer service behavior. It revealed some deficiencies in the ways companies are handling online customer service.

Because social media provides an immediate way to contact companies, consumer expectations around social customer service are very high. Customers demand instant answers to questions and quick resolution of problems they bring to a company’s attention through social media. Companies that fail to provide this immediate attention risk their customers sharing their frustrations with their entire networks.

The negative publicity garnered by United Airlines when a customer made a YouTube video entitled “United Breaks Guitars” is an example of what can happen via social media when a company doesn’t address a customer service problem quickly and thoroughly. Bad publicity on social media can damage a brand if it goes viral, the way the United YouTube video did.

Integrated Approach to Social Customer Service

Companies have had to change the way they administer customer service to ensure that social media communication is addressed as quickly as possible, but this has often been hampered by lack of integration. The study’s authors point out that “in many cases social media falls under marketing’s remit, rather than the customer service team, leading to the growth of silos of information that are inconsistent with answers provided through other channels. While organizations are changing, processes are still being developed.”

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An integrated approach to social media in an organization could involve the implementation of case management software to handle complaints, whereby any complaint received via social media is funneled into the case management tool upon receipt. This way customer complaints are management, addressed and resolved according to a process, no matter how they are received. Complaints received by someone in marketing via social media will make their way immediately to someone in customer service or complaint resolution.

Quick Response to Avoid Disaster

One of the critical factors related to social media measured in the study was how well companies respond direct inquiries sent to their official Twitter account. Of the companies included in the study, 76 per cent were on Twitter, but of those only 53 per cent responded to a tweet sent directly to them with only 39 per cent providing an accurate response. And the 10 leading UK insurers included in the study only responded to a third of questions asked on Twitter and by email.

Clearly, companies have a lot of work to do in the area of social customer service if they want to avoid bad publicity and loss of business. The study showed that customers are more likely to get their questions answered via email than on Twitter, although the response time is slower. It also showed that while 42 per cent of customers expect their complaints on social media to be addressed within an hour, that’s far from reality. The average response on social media is, in fact, eight hours and 37 minutes, providing lots of time for the customer to come up with a clever way to express his or her dissatisfaction with the company, such as recording a YouTube video that goes viral.


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