It’s fairly common practice today for major brands to have a social media team at the ready to respond to customer complaints on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
The practice is so widespread that the Call Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI) report released last week by CFI Group found that call centers should perhaps be renamed “contact centers.”
The Contact Center Shift
That is one of the major revelations of the CCSI. For the 2012 survey, CFI Group discovered that non-call service methods including email, Web self-service, chat and other online techniques account for more than 30 percent of customer service engagements.
“What we’ve seen over the last two or three years are the ways that customers reaching out to companies for service have shifted away from being exclusively calls,” Terry Redding, director of development and delivery for CFI Group told CRM Buyer. “For the first time these non-call service channels have exceeded that 30 percent mark.”
Email and Web chat are among the top non-call actions consumers take when reaching out to companies. Interactions on social media are not always directed at the company, but more consumers are using social media to voice issues with brands and companies, and those companies are listening.
“Only about 15 percent of companies are actively using social media to reach out to their customers,” Redding said. “It is a damage control mechanism. We’re not seeing social media as a way that customers are attempting to get in touch with companies, but companies are monitoring for the bad buzz, and their service people are reaching out to these people.”
Damage Control in Social Media
A recent example of a company responding to customer criticism via social media involved clothing retailer The Gap. Consumers tweeted that a certain style of jean was ripping at the crotch. The Gap did not immediately engage customers, but eventually addressed the issue.
“Companies like The Gap turned it around and showed they were being attentive,” Josepf Haslam, senior digital strategist at DragonSearch, told CRM Buyer. “People see they are getting back to customers. They want to see that it’s handled in a timely manner.”
The social media channel is emerging as a way for consumers to get attention from brands when they need resolution. Social media also gives consumers a voice, and a much louder voice than simple word-of-mouth.
“You’re going to tell friends and neighbors, and that’s going to influence people. You’re going to impact, say, 10 people’s buying decisions,” said Haslam. “Social media amplifies that.”
Solve the Problems in Public
That power may prove a much more satisfying first point of contact for customers because it’s better than the alternative of navigating commands on a help line and waiting on hold.
When customers do use social media to get a company’s attention or initiate a complaint, how do brands handle the next step? Do they try to resolve the problem transparently via the same social networks, or is the conversation promptly taken to a more private mode such as phone or email?
“Anecdotally, what I’m hearing is that they’re actually trying to handle those offline,” said Redding. “It’s not, ‘let’s solve it for the whole world to see.’ It’s more, ‘let’s take it offline before you say more bad things publicly.'”
While it’s understandable that companies, and consumers, would want to move to a more private line of communication, Haslam advises that companies “close the loop.” He used a personal example involving his own customer service complaint registered via social media.
“If they were smart, they would have gotten back to me on Twitter, thanked me, and I would have tweeted back. If they were really smart, they would save that [tweet] as a favorite.” Saving those conversations helps future customers look at the brand’s profile and see how issues are resolved.
Not all interactions require a blow-by-blow resolution in public. The fact that brands are monitoring social media, however, with many using social media to reach out to consumers, shows a shift in customer contact.
“It’s good news that scores continue to climb. There was concern last year, with a slight drop, that we had reached the ceiling,” said Redding. “There’s still room for growth and improvement.”