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Industry Research : Telstra, Target Use Social Media to Lift Game
Telstra and Target have been named as leaders in responding to customer queries via social media, in a new report released by Social Pulse and Online Circle Digital.
The study examines how Australia’s biggest companies are moving social media out of the marketing department and into the call centre as a fully fledged customer service channel.
The findings showed that across all industries, Australian businesses received nearly 700,000 queries via Facebook, Twitter and other social networks in September.
The companies responded to nearly 85 per cent of customer posts, with an average delay of 26 minutes.
The telecommunications sector led the way, receiving nearly 450,000 queries via social channels, and responding to 97.5 per cent of posts with an average delay of just three minutes.
Head of Telstra Digital, Gerd Schenkel, told The Australian Financial Review the company launched its customer service via Facebook and Twitter about 2½ years ago and he believed it was contributing to improvements in net promoter score.
"One difference that is unique with social media is that people can observe us and how we deal with customer issues and how we treat them," Mr Schenkel said.
"If we get an inquiry on Facebook and resolve their issue, then thousands of people watch us do so, and that is a unique opportunity that is not possible in a store or in a contact centre, so we welcome that."
Mr Schenkel said customer care agents would try to answer social media queries on the spot but recommended its web chat service option, Live Chat, for more complex problems.
Telstra’s social customer care team had grown from 15 to 30 full-time equivalent staff in 2½ years, while web chat had grown from 50 to 600, and all of it was 24 hours a day.
The social media customer service trend is driven by customer demand, with Australian consumers more likely to use social media to contact a company than ever before. A separate piece of research released last week, the Avaya Asia Pacific Customer Experience Index, suggested social media is the fastest-growing customer service channel along with mobile applications.
The study sponsored by video conferencing and call centre software company Avaya suggested 12 per cent of Australian consumers used social platforms to contact a company in 2013, up from 8 per cent a year ago. It also found that Facebook was the favoured forum.
Of those customers who used social media to contact a forum, more than two in three (68 per cent) posted directly on the company’s Facebook page, compared with only 21 per cent who used Twitter.
Avaya Australia managing director Tim Gentry said businesses need to respond to customers on social media rather than directing them to other contact channels.
"Consumers want to speak to companies on what channel, what time and the way they want to and when you try to steer any consumer to do it your way not their way, you lose your customer base," Mr Gentry said.
"It is a huge mistake to only let marketing run [social media]; companies that are not looking at it as a customer service channel will be left behind and find more and more cases of their brand being diminished because they’re not responding to consumer requests on a real-time basis."
Online Circle Digital chief executive Jeff Richardson said the trend to use social media for customer service would grow.
"It doesn’t matter what the company thinks is an important customer service channel, it matters what the consumer thinks is important," Mr Richardson said. "Businesses don’t consider the impact that multiple unanswered questions filing through their social media channels have."
Kristen Boschma, general manager of Aegis Media’s specialist social media agency The Social Hatch, said businesses cannot afford to ignore social media, even if they do not use it for customer service.
"Any business with more than 100 customers needs to monitor social media channels to assess what’s being said about the business and to head off small problems before they become big PR headaches," Ms Boschma said.
She added that customer service via social media is not cheap because it requires agents with the authority to make decisions on the spot, whether that be waiving outstanding balances or upholding company policy.
Customers who use social media channels expect a speedy acknowledgement and resolution of the problem, Ms Boschma said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, September 2, 2013