Joined up customer service essential in era of Social Web

By Chris Lee

UK customers are voting with their feet in the face of poor customer service, according to new research, with online a growing battleground for organisations as consumers increasingly use social networks as a last resort to be heard by brands. More than one-third of consumers have switched suppliers as a result of bad service and three in ten have not signed up to a service because of the bad customer service they received initially, according to a survey of 1,400 people by consumer experience company [24]7.

The group also found that more than half of respondents (51 per cent) felt frustrated when companies do not know who they are or what their issue is, despite having interacted with that company via another channel previously. While older people are less likely to be tolerant of poor customer service, younger demographics (18-24 year-olds) are more likely to turn to social media to complain, the company found.

Cultural shift

According to Mike Hughes, European managing director for [24]7, the world has changed for customers and they demand that companies know who they are, what they want, and how they want to be served.

“Customer service and the multi-channel experience are essential. Brands risk alienating their customers to the point that they take their business elsewhere,” he said. “Consumers use their mobile, online, social media, and web chat when interacting with customer service teams and they expect smart, integrated service across all channels. They don’t want to constantly repeat their issues and expect prompt resolution.”

Social CRM is key

It has long been argued that organisations need to change to provide “social customer relationship management” (Social CRM) and there are some good examples of brands embracing this culture, but Hughes believes brands on the whole are still not joined up in their customer service programmes.

While [24]7’s research found that social media’s role in customer service was currently minimal, with just 6.8 per cent of respondents saying they regularly use social media to communicate with an organisation’s customer service teams, that figure rises to one in five when looking solely at 18-24 year olds. This suggests that social media will play a growing role in meeting consumers’ customer service expectations.

“Social media can be an important channel for customer service but it takes time and commitment to be successful,” Hughes said. “If a brand is only going to pay lip service to customer care on social media they would be better off investing in other customer service channels. A negative customer experience on social media can be spread around the world within minutes, potentially causing long-lasting damage to a brand.”

According to Hughes, one of the main reasons people use social media for customer service is as “a back door when the front door doesn’t work” – they have had no success on the phone and think that the more public nature of social media will get the desired response.

“If brands were able to anticipate and predict the issues faced by consumers then people wouldn’t feel the need to go via the back door and could get things done much more easily. This in turn builds powerful brand loyalty,” he added.

Get the basics of Social CRM right

Hughes believes the problem isn’t that companies can’t cope with new trends like social media; it is that they are still getting some of the basics wrong.

“Our research showed that people get frustrated by companies not having a joined-up customer service team and people do not want to repeat themselves when they have already shared information via another channel,” he told NMK. “Social media will eventually play a bigger role in modern customer service but it is not a question of a company using one particular channel, it is about positive interactions across a variety of channels. These interactions are what provide the data that enable brands to anticipate what their customers need and deliver a truly intuitive customer service. The public have shown they will take action so companies will ignore that at their peril.”

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