It would be a brave (or foolhardy) brand to opt out from having a social media presence in 2016. Most organisations – certainly the bigger ones – will even have dedicated social media accounts for customer service, with Twitter especially popular for this purpose.

It’s easy to see why. Brands see how Twitter can explode with examples of bad customer service and they want to avoid being the latest Twitterstorm. So they set up a dedicated customer service account, and if they are smart they will have it staffed throughout the working day and will have the monitoring technology in place to ensure that mentions of their brand aren’t missed. Staff can then follow-up and queries can be resolved.

This isn’t a bad thing per se, but it’s important to remember Twitter’s limitations for actually resolving queries and providing a good overall customer experience. How many queries actually get resolved with social media, and how many are passed to another channel for resolution? Social media is far better to be used as part of an overall omnichannel strategy and can be better deployed in other ways.

Changing the customer experience

Of all the many changes that social media has brought about in life, business, work, play and society as a whole, one of them is undoubtedly the way consumers use it to interact directly with a brand. Sometimes this might be to have a moan about a company on Facebook, at others it might be to praise it on Twitter.

Social media has drastically altered the nature of the customer experience consumers get. Previously, any issues that needed to be addressed, or questions that a consumer may have had about a brand, were nearly always conducted in private. That could be in person, over the phone or via a live chat service. But the point is, only the brand and the customer were privvy to that conversation.

Nowadays, whether a consumer is expressing dissatisfaction at service they have received or just want a question responded to, they have the option of using a variety of different social media. An Epitca survey in 2015 revealed that 64% of consumers using Twitter expect a response within an hour. Queries get answered so promptly, mostly because of the very public nature of social media – brands do not want to be seen as slow and unresponsive.

Can social media actually resolve a query?

But when such queries do get resolved, it is hardly ever actually done so via social media. While it is possible to get a brand’s attention using social media, in most cases whoever running the customer service social media account will ask for a customer number or for the consumer to call up so the issue or query can be dealt with by an agent.

Are social customer service teams based with agents at a contact centre? Are they connected in a way that ensures a consistent and contextual experience? Perhaps in some cases, but in many others the social media team is somewhat siloed and any customer interactions that take place on social media are confined to social media.

Data is power

Brands are missing a trick on several levels, by not integrating their social media operations with other areas of the business. Social media, and Facebook especially, offers unparalleled insight into what consumers like from a brand, and expect in terms of a customer experience.

This data includes an awareness of what the customer has done previously, allowing frontline customer service staff to offer a better service to that customer, resolving issues quicker and offering help at the right time and via the right channel. The Single Digital Channel (SDC) is a concept growing in take-up, and it gives an agent access to all media types from their desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers – voice, email, chat, social media – waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent. The ‘right’ agent can mean the next available agent, one with a particular skill-set or area of expertise, or even one with a prior history with that customer.

Social media is certainly one of the key indicators of customer dissatisfaction. It has also been part of the drive towards firms focusing on the customer more, partly because savvy consumers take to social media because they know it’s the channel that gets most attention.

But brands must remember that social media is just another channel, and should not be prioritised over others, which still have a major role to play in delivering a quality customer experience. Social media works best as part of an overall and integrated omnichannel vision, where the data generated is used to help deliver a contextual and consistent service irrespective of channel – and that is where it’s true value lies.

Mike Hughes

Mike Hughes


Mike Hughes, MD, PeopleTECH