Vodafone Hutchison Australia expects the number of employees dealing with social media inquiries to increase five-fold in the next year, VHA's regulatory general manager Brian Currie has revealed.
Speaking at an Australian Communications and Media Authority public hearing for the authority's "Reconnecting the Customer" telecommunications customer service inquiry in Sydney yesterday, Currie said the way customers choose to seek assistance from their telco was changing, with many opting for self-service online portals, while others turned to social media.
"The growth in social media is huge. We've had to have a dedicated team set up to deal with that, be that Twitter, Facebook," he said. "We've got a team of 10 people. We think by the end of next year that [number] could well be in excess of 50 people because that's where customers are choosing to do their servicing interactions."
Watching Australian broadband enthusiast website Whirlpool was also a method of providing customer support for iiNet, customer service manager Neil Harrison told the inquiry. Harrison said that it was naturally easier for internet service providers to seek out their customers online.
"From our perspective we open the channels up to them: not only being able to email and phone, but we're [also] fairly prevalent with the uses of social media such as Facebook and Twitter as well as Whirlpool, the Australian broadband forum," he said.
"We have staff actively monitoring the customers and what they're saying. We call it a non-supported means of support, I suppose. But we do actually reply back to consumers from that regard."
Harrison said that his experience working for other telecommunications companies showed that many viewed customer service as just another cost for business. Customer complaints were treated as "it's just the customer being a customer, it's their entitlement to whinge".
While the focus of the inquiry and the hearings is improvements for customers, just two out of the 12 speakers at the event were actual customers.
Telstra and Optus — both of whom did not appear at the Sydney hearing — are also heavily engaged on Twitter.