An official corporate Twitter account gives consumers the opportunity to interact with a company in a brand new way. It presents customers with the prospects of instantly messaging an organisation with a query, complaint or praise. Meanwhile, it gives businesses the chance to provide a new channel for their customer contact.
In theory, using social media sites like Twitter is an attractive prospect for both; web-savvy customers are given a one-on-one contact channel, while businesses are able to benefit from harnessing the positive comments and goodwill from happy Twitter customers.
But what’s the reality?
Over a period of an hour, from 9:30am to 10:30am, the numero social media team monitored the number of users contacting Vodafone UK, the regional arm of the global mobile service. Throughout the time period, we registered 35 messages directed at Vodafone. These tweets, also known as mentions, ranged in regards to their content, varying from general customer enquiries to account-specific questions.
Even during this short period of time, the numero team noted a number of different lessons for companies hoping to enter this space to provide customer service.
Over the course of the hour, the mobile operator received 19 tweets which could be classed as customer enquiries. These ranged from questions about the launch of a new HTC phone model to queries about service disruptions. Some examples of these included:
- “So is there no other way for business users to track unused minutes/texts/data except by logging in to X website.”
- “Hello – pre-ordered HTC Sensations were supposed to arrive today but I haven’t had a dispatch note – is my phone still coming?”
- “Thanks for the tweet…How do i know if I’m contract internet or WAP?”
- “Estimated turn-around time? Should I expect phone tomorrow/early next week?”
After reading these tweets, those interested in adopting a Twitter account for customer service should be asking themselves an important question: can I provide the infrastructure necessary to satisfactorily deal with these enquiries?
Indeed, while a number of these enquiries can be dealt with on a mass basis (dispatch times for a new product, for example), a large quantity of messages required the social media operator to have access to the customer’s details and account history.
If you’re offering customer service channels through this social network, it’s imperative to be able to record customer contact on a central database. This is important for a number of reasons:
- To access previous contact history and quickly inform the social media operator of previous ticket items.
- To record details of the current enquiry in the event of further contact
But, many companies are failing to do this. A report from US firm Constellation Research found that too many companies were entering the social space without proper integration tools in place. The research discovered that, in many cases, the support platforms weren’t in place for organisations to adequately access customer information for social media enquiries.
And if this information infrastructure isn’t in place, it can result in inadequate service and unhappy customers.
Customers will complain and praise in equal measure
There are a number of incentives for companies to enter the social space, although one of the main drivers is the ability for organisations to effectively manage (very public) complaints. When a user vents their frustrations on Twitter, the world can see it; hardly ideal PR. Companies engage in this activity in order to pacify these users.
During the research, we uncovered eight tweets which could be described as ‘critical’, messages which were less than complimentary towards Vodafone customer service. Some examples of these included:
- “Last rant rang the sales line to turn kids SIM only deal into contracts and was ripped off should have done it online”
- “I am sick of ringing 191 to be fobbed off CEO office WHEN they reply are the only people who can be bothered”
In these cases, it’s important for the company in question to quickly manage and deal with the complaint. It’s another strong argument for the integration of information between customer service channels; the ability to find previous contact information and act accordingly. And quickly.
Because, while customers can use the social network can ask their enquiry or vent their frustrations, Twitter users can also decide to praise and advertise a company or service. During our hour of research, we monitored eight tweets which praised the behaviour and customer care of the mobile phone operator. These tweets included:
- “Thank you! I am due for an upgrade soon, so will definitely get this one.”
- “Talk to @VodafoneUK, their customer service team is on here, they’ll ring you if you want them to.”
- “Woohoo, it’s May 19th and @VodafoneUK are starting to dispatch the new @HTC Sensation.”
These three tweets were potentially seen by 1,048 other Twitter users (the number of followers of each of these users). That’s 1,048 people who would have been exposed to a complimentary tweet relating to Vodafone’s service and customer service. Because of Vodafone’s rapid customer service, many users who previously complained had been transformed into brand advocates, praising the company’s fast actions with their query.
It’s this feature that makes social media unique as a customer service channel, providing users to not only contact an organisation (as they would do via an email or telephone call), but also express their gratitude and satisfaction to their connections. No other contact channel allows a consumer to do this.
Like all customer contact, you just need to be able to manage the enquiries…