Speedy responses not advisable for social platforms

Companies facing complaints on social platforms should determine if these are legitimate or "chatter", and ought to move response from online to offline communication modes to better address concerns, industry players say.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Organizations should not always respond too quickly to complaints made on social media platforms as this might encourage customers to complain in an open, public arena. Rather, they should determine the legitimacy of the complaint and shepherd customers to offline communications to better address their concerns, say industry players.

Nicola Millard, customer experience futurologist at BT Global Services, said there is a "worrying trend" of companies responding to complaints faster on social platforms than on traditional channels such as e-mail or phone calls. This, she warned, is not advised as it may encourage more people to complain in an open, public space.

Instead, companies should take these conversations offline and to a more private domain so that there is room for more in-depth communication, she added.

Erwann Thomassain, head of regional marketing for Asia-Pacific at Amdocs, also pointed out that not every social media message or complaint need to be responded to. It is more important to identify if the complaint is a genuine problem or just "plain chatter", he suggested, adding that the next step would be to identify the customer to add context to the feedback given.

"For example, if the customer is complaining about his service provider overcharging him, check the customer's bill to get context and understand what really happened," he said.

Manage customers' expectations
Another reason why companies should refrain from responding too quickly on these online platforms is because fast response times are not sustainable as they tend to fall short of customers' expectations and result in public backlash, the Amdocs executive noted.

Citing a global survey conducted by company, he noted that a response time of less than 24 hours is preferred among the 2,9000 smartphone users between the ages of 18 to 40 years old who were polled. In reality, these customers usually receive a response in less than a week, with only 28 percent of service providers meeting the expectation, he said.

Millard gave more context to the challenge companies face, saying that customers have different expectations regarding the speed of response on social media and other communication channels.

"For example, microblogs like Twitter are very transient and customers expect instant response within an hour while online forums or companies' e-mail messages are usually slower and will take a day or two longer," she said.

As such, companies should set different response guidelines for different channels, said Benjamin Hart, vice president at Convergys Asia-Pacific.

Organizations can leverage the power of "crowdsourcing" for community forums, for instance, to provide answers to a problem. So a "negative" post can be left up on the site for 24 hours for other users to reply before a customer service officer jumps in to address and resolve the problem, he explained.

Social media should be integrated in all departments
Asked if social media monitoring should be placed under a company's communications team or within the contact center, Millard said the latter is typically very well placed as the staff there is trained to interact and respond to customer enquiries.

Hart agreed, adding that social media initiatives can be guided by the corporate communications team but must be handled by customer service officers.

Thomassain said such a practice reflects the industry trend. "Most of the customers we talked to have social media under customer care or contact centre organizations," he said.

However, for customer enquiries to be handled by relevant business units more efficiently, Millard believes social media should not be relegated to just one department or domain but be integrated into the daily business operations as much as possible.

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