Turning "Likes" into "Dislikes:" Are Your Social Media Policies Killing Your Customer Service?

By Lisa Durant
On Jan 29, 2014
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It’s no secret that, in most companies, monitoring social media is marketing’s job. Social media began in marketing and still serves as an excellent medium for advertisement. However, if you look at any organization’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, you’re likely to see numerous questions or complaints about issues that would typically be handled by a customer service representative in the contact center. In fact, one of the most common responses to such posts is a reply asking the person to e-mail or call the customer service line. 

Most of the organizations with whom we’ve spoken have shown little concern over this structure. In fact, fewer than 11% of companies have integrated social media monitoring into their contact centers. Why? Companies tend to believe that customers post to social media as a last resort after other methods of communication have failed to resolve their issues.

That’s surprising. I happen to post to social media frequently as a first point of contact with companies when I have a question or concern; but, maybe that’s just me. So, I wondered: are other people going directly to social media as well? And, if so, for which kinds of companies—and why?

I decided to conduct a mini benchmark on Facebook. I went to five different company Facebook pages and asked about 30 people if they had tried contacting these companies another way before posting on Facebook.

I posted on pages in a variety of verticals, including two large financial institutions, two big-brand food services, and a small subscription service. I received about 20 responses. Although it’s hardly a statistical sample, I still achieved some revealing results!

Unsurprisingly, the results varied by vertical. Of the five responses I received from the financial services pages, three people (60%) had tried another method of contacting the company first while two (40%) had gone straight to social media. Meanwhile, 100% of responses from those posting on the small subscription service’s page had used social media as their primary point of contact. (It’s also worth noting that this company was directly resolving issues through Facebook and not directing customers to e-mail or phone.)

The most revealing responses, however, came from the big brand food services pages: Out of the 13 responses I received between the 2 pages, only 1 person (under 5%) had tried contacting either company another way before moving to social media. The remaining 12 had used social media as their first point of contact with the company, and they had a lot to say about why!

“When I saw they had a Facebook page, I thought I’d try a direct approach,” explained one poster. “It was much faster and friendlier than searching websites. I will try this approach next time I have a question for a company.”

“I’m always curious to see how responsive companies are to social media,” another poster explained. “I’ll send them an email tomorrow if this [Facebook post] doesn’t get a response.”

But, were these customers satisfied with the response that their social media posts received? 

Almost uniformly, the answer was “no”—and that should worry everyone involved with customer satisfaction or customer service. 

“All they say is ‘please call the 800 number,’” said one poster. Indeed, every one of these companies, except the small subscription service, was posting similar responses to questions and concerns on their pages. This type of habitual company response, whether accounted for in contact center reports or not, immediately affects First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates, which absolutely affects customer service. 

What's the message for contact center managers?

Your mileage may vary, but social media probably represent a “first contact” point far more often than you think. And, if you’re leaving the responses up to marketing—or responding with a customer service phone number or e-mail address—you’re creating a point of transfer. This hurts your FCR ratings, which often serve as an important customer service Key Performance Indicator (KPI). You really need to think about revisiting your social media policies and adding social media monitoring to your contact center—or risk having social media crush your customer service ratings.

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