Digital-Age Customer Service: Trading Phone for Social Media

social customer care

Image courtesy of 1to1 Media.

Those seeking customer service are disregarding traditional methods and selecting new ways to get their queries answered. Increasing numbers of consumers are taking to social media in order to get brands and companies to address their concerns.

Recent surveys have found that 31% of customers would use Facebook or Twitter to raise their concerns, but only after more traditional methods have proved inconsequential. The number was higher among 16-24 year olds and it is believed the scale of others that see the complaint force companies to act more efficiently and limit knock on effects, whereas previously customers would only voice their experience of poor service with friends and family.

Similarly, customers want their queries answered, and quickly. They don’t want to be listening to automated telephone systems and being prompted to ‘press 4 to speak to one of our advisers.’ They would rather receive a reply within an hour or two with a clear-cut answer or a link to more useful information. This comes at the same time that the UK government are in the process of introducing measures that will mark the end of premium rate customer service telephone lines. Companies will have to charge standard geographic rates, spelling the ‘beginning of the end’ of the high charging 084 and 087 numbers. Given that social media is free, it’s no surprise that phone queries are decreasing.

Studies have found that in the first quarter of 2013, 1.2 million customer service questions were asked on Facebook, up a gigantic 30% from the final quarter of 2012.

However, businesses shouldn’t jump on the social media bandwagon without thinking through strategy and operation of any accounts. Businesses with management systems, such as the ISO 9001, already in place will possibly find it easier to allocate resources to social media. For those who haven’t got a well thought out strategy in place, problems could arise – Royal Mail infamously put an employee in charge of their Twitter account who couldn’t inform customers about late packages because they had no access to this information!

There are more success stories than negative accounts, though. American Airlines has been applauded for its service through social media. The company has 15 members of staff dedicated to helping customers in a quick manner. One case study saw a customer tweeting American Airlines on the ground and also at 35,000 feet in order to resolve an issue regarding his connecting flight. Virgin Airlines is also increasing its social media service, and if channels are monitored with real people rather than automated services, results will undoubtedly be more positive.

Finally, social media allows for brands to appear more personable and humane to their customers. Whilst conversing over the phone, customers are solely concerned with getting their query addressed, on social media they can interact with fun and engaging posts from brand accounts. Innocent Drinks is famous for adopting a conversational and informal tone on Twitter, allowing customers to realize the people on the other end of the account are just like them, sharing the same interests and having a similar sense of humor.

Online customer service is becoming increasingly necessary for brands and businesses of all size and it wouldn’t be surprising if it began to overtake phone and email as the preferred point of contact.

About the Author: Billy Sexton specializes in researching and writing content for digital audiences and writes on behalf of QMS International, who offer ISO 9001 certification to businesses across the globe.

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