So how can businesses best respond? It means training existing or finding new staff who are familiar with social media. Schneider says: “Customer service staff on a phone are trained to go through a checklist. Those on Twitter need to be good at just being human, recognising when they can be cheeky, funny or friendly.
“But it is also about being pro-active, listening to what your customers are saying on Twitter, even joining in the conversation and broadcasting information such as an expected power outage before it happens to head off complaints.”
Ogberg says businesses need to realise the changing nature of today’s consumer: “People don’t shop according to brand they want flawless customer experience. The ability to service people quickly in public is much more important. If you don’t have a social media strategy you have a lot to lose.”
Train and bus operator First Group took a hit last year when Commute London revealed that it had received 45,100 tweets about late trains and over 265,000 on its service overall – more than any other rail company.
The group responded positively. “This survey shows how dedicated [First Group] is to engaging with our passengers, actively seeking their views and providing them with the information we know they want,” a spokesperson says. “Social media allows us to respond more quickly and far from being ashamed we encourage customers to get in touch."
Indeed a quick scan of the site, set up in 2008, reveals one example question over a confusing app message being replied to in just two minutes. The tone is friendly, asking the customer to send a copy of the screenshot of the app. It is signed off with a ‘You’re Welcome’, the name of the FGW twitter consultant (Grant) and a smiley emoticon.
Building society Nationwide offers a dedicated Facebook page offering hints and tips and a You Tube channel. Its Twitter service @AskNationwide, set up in 2012, is for customer service questions and latest news and information.
Again the language is friendly with lots of sorrys and thanks. Consultants, including another person called Grant, ask customers with very specific issues to go offline to protect confidential security details.
Paul Beadle, head of social media, says Ask has a 50-50 split between complaints and issues and other comments such as ‘engaging over our TV ads’.
“We set it up to respond to a demand from our customers,” he says. “They want to complain via their channel of choice and many are more familiar today with social media. It has grown quickly and evolved into a 24/7 operation again responding to customer needs.”
The group had an existing team of online consultants who received training in how to respond to messages and complaints on Twitter. “We trained them on speed in dealing with questions, the challenge of replying in just 140 characters and needing a slightly different tone of voice,” he explains. “It’s slightly less formal to questions and more formal, but still chatty, when dealing with a pure complaint. It’s about tailoring your tone of voice to the feed. Most of the younger consultants took to it well because they use it in their private lives.”
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s instalment of our social media series, where we will be taking a long-term view…