Complaints on social media rise by a fifth: Companies warned to adapt — fast!

By Chris Lee

Consumers are increasingly turning to social media to highlight poor customer service, according to a new study. Cloud contract centre provider NewVoiceMedia, the company behind the research, claims £12 billion is lost annually by businesses as customers defect due to poor customer service, and consumers are 19 per cent more likely to out offending organisations online than this time last year.

The Drum cites NewVoiceMedia’s CEO Jonathan Gale as saying: “Customers have a stronger influence on a business’s success than ever before and it’s surprising how many organisations still aren’t getting it right. Customer experience is a key differentiator. By doing it well, organisations can drive the customer acquisition, retention and efficiency that make leading companies successful.”

Virgin Media recently found out how quickly a customer service issue can go viral when a bill sent in error to a deceased customer with a late payment fee was posted initially on Facebook by a relative rather than direct, private contact with the organisation as an initial step.

Consumers treating brands “like friends”

For social media consultant Joshua March writing for Pando Daily, social media has changed customer service in a dramatic way.

“Rather than pursue their complaint as a discrete transaction, customers nowadays reach out to corporations as naturally and effortlessly as they do their friends,” he argued. “The same way I’m likely to think my friend is rude if he or she ignores a message from me on Facebook or Twitter, companies, too, are learning, often the hard way, that the kind of service they need to provide has to be immediate and public.”

Get serious about social customer relationship management

For Gary Andrews, digital and communities manager at consultancy Ruder Finn UK, if brands are serious about social then they also need to be serious about customer service on these channels.

“While PR and marketing teams may want to utilise Twitter, Facebook and other platforms for campaigns, the average consumer will assume that the person handling the complaint or query knows how to help and will just see the brand name rather than the team behind,” he told NMK.

Andrews explained that some brands, such as BT, wisely have dedicated customer service channels on Twitter, while others choose to handle it all in one account.

“If you’re going down this route, you have to have clear lines of communication and it’s definitely worth using some form of social media listening combined with management tools like Hootsuite where it’s quite clear who has responsibility for responding to which query. Your community manager will often need to defer to the customer service team and vice versa,” he advised. Andrews believes it has never been easier for a customer to complain publicly to such a large number of people and suspects it will only increase in an age where switching your custom is quick and simple. “Brands have to work harder to retain our business,” he said. “It’s no longer enough just to listen online; brands have to be proactive about customer service, whether that’s on Facebook, Twitter, blogs or forums.”

Become brand ambassadors

March concludes that customer service agents must become, in effect, brand ambassadors. “To do [customer service] effectively, the old way of providing customer service won’t do,” he writes. “Too often, the traditional rep on the phone was trained to do one thing and one thing only, which is pass a complaint up the bureaucratic chain of command, receive a resolution, and report it back — a classic centralised model of corporate communication. Today’s customer service agent, on the other hand, must be nimble, smart, fast, attentive, personable, and talented at defusing volatile situations and creating new opportunities.”

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