Social media - Power to the people

Social media gives customers a place to vent
Social media gives customers a place to vent

According to consumer body Which? broadband provider call centres are particularly causing customers grievance with just 58 per cent answering calls in the first five minutes. When getting through around 17 per cent felt the person they spoke to had very poor product knowledge.

Yet Alan Partridge/Day Today comedian and social media expert David Schneider says customers are increasingly turning to social media as a “first port of call” not just when they can’t get through or get poor service on phone or email. “Being put on hold is costly especially when you don’t know how long you will have to wait. Twitter is quick, effective and free,” says Schneider, also co-founder of social media agency That Lot. “There are two techniques on Twitter – either contact a company representative directly and if they are good get a direct response or just vent your frustration on your twitter feed!”

Henning Ogberg, senior VP EMEA at SugarCRM, adds: “It is so easy to do. My wife is a good example. She is an emotional customer and by complaining on Facebook rather than email she emotionally feels better.”

The public nature of a Twitter or Facebook complaint or exchange, given the possibility of re-tweets to millions of other users, is therefore a huge challenge to companies. “Individuals who previously felt powerless know that companies are thinking “Oh my God! Everyone can see this!” if they complain on Twitter,” Schneider says. “It’s as public as possible, human to human and a bit scary for brands. They have to get the response and reply right.”

According to researchers The Social Habit social media complainers are very demanding. It says a third expect a response within just 30 minutes at any time of the day or night.

Eptica, a global provider of customer interaction software, says businesses are improving on Twitter but not coming anywhere near those kind of time targets. It said UK retailers are answering tweets in an average of 4 hours 5 minutes vastly improved on 2014’s 13 hours and 10 minutes.

However, only 43 per cent of tweets received a successful reply to their questions up 10 per cent of 2014 – it said 88 per cent of retailers were on social networks yet 45 per cent simply did not answer tweets. “Today’s retail market is incredibly competitive, and customer service is a key way of differentiating and increasing loyalty and sales,” says Olivier Njamfa, CEO and co-founder of Eptica. “Consumers want a seamless, straightforward experience, yet too many companies are making it difficult to get answers to even the most basic questions across digital channels.”

A separate Eptica study for insurers found that 50 per cent of companies were on Twitter, the same number as 2014, and all responded to a question tweeted to their official handle. However just 30 per cent of companies provided a response that answered the question - an identical result to last year. There was a wide range of response times, however with one company answering in 9 minutes and another taking over 43 hours.

This all has serious consequences for a company’s reputation: according to Eptica, 82 per cent of consumer said they always or often switched supplier if they failed to correct their mistakes.

In the next instalment of our social media series, we take a look at the importance of businesses replying to their customers swiftly…