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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Do Your Customers Have to Tweet to Get Your Attention?
Every day the marketing community seems to be talking more and more about social-media-powered customer service.  While it sometimes feels like the practice has been with us forever, in reality it dates back only five or six years.  We first sat in a conference room at Comcast back in 2008 and listened as Frank Eliason (now Director Global Social Media at Citi, but then one of the first advocate-practitioners of social media customer service [smediaCS]) explained to us how he and his team were using the social media: to: monitor comments/complaints about Comcast; reach out to individual, complaining customers; respond to general questions; and solve service problems.  Now five years later, smediaCS appears a broadly accepted/expected business practice. How quickly times change!

If you believe all the hype surrounding smediaCS you might be convinced that customers have given up using phone and email channels to seek answers to their questions and concerns.  That’s not true, and we believe that’s an opportunity.

Better Quality?  At What Cost?

Part of the story being told is that smediaCS improves response times, delivers higher quality interactions, and is a more cost-effective way of offering customer service.  But is that really true? After all, rather than (passively) waiting for customers to contact customer service reps (the ‘model’ of traditional customer service), good smediaCS requires (actively) searching out unhappy customers from posted comments and then contacting the posting-customers.  Let’s take score:

  • It still requires trained service reps responding to individual customers (most companies have reassigned their best reps from the traditional CSC (phone and email) to smediaCS).
  • Forcing unhappy customers to use the social media results in a public display of one’s ‘dirty laundry’.
  • In addition, because complaints are communicated via social media, the expectations are that responses will be received very quickly - within minutes of the posting of the problem or question.
  • Companies may learn about product and service failures faster because of the immediacy of the social media.

When all these factors are considered it’s no surprise that costs aren’t necessarily reduced.  The truth is, smediaCS comes with a considerably higher cost structure than more traditional customer service centers!


Then Which Approach Should You Take?

You really have no choice.  Like it or not, smediaCS is here to stay because of the evolving behaviors and expectations of customers - there’s no turning back. But do we really want to encourage even more customers to use that channel? That seems to be what many companies are doing today. According to a recent study among Call Center Association members, sponsored by KANA Software:

  • More than 59% of companies “admit” that it takes over 8 hours for them to respond to a customer email inquiry.  If that sounds too slow for consumers who expect instantaneous tracking, who can get answers from Siri almost as fast as they can click the key on their smartphone, and who can get overnight delivery of packages from thousands of miles away, it gets worse.
  • Another 27% of companies “admit” that they take 24 hours or more to respond to emails.

Unless you don’t care about your reputation or don’t mind spending even more money to respond to an ever-increasing proportion of your customers adopting social media complaining, the time to act is now.  Get back to paying attention to your traditional customer service center and its current performance in handling phone and email customer appeals.  First, improve first-call resolution to phone and email inquiries. Second, be more timely in responding.  And, third, staff your center with better trained and more caring representatives. 




1:28 pm edt          Comments

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