Article

Should followers help you jump queues?

A million-dollar question you may not yet have asked, but which will undoubtedly crop up over the next few years, is whether or not social media influence should allow people to jump the queue waiting to speak to a customer services representative?

A million-dollar question you may not yet have asked, but which will undoubtedly crop up over the next few years, is whether or not social media influence should allow people to jump the queue waiting to speak to a customer services representative?

 

Now that call centre platforms are being increasingly hosted in the cloud and having external data services added to a brand’s own CRM system, the need for a company to make this decision is going to become all the more pressing.

 

That’s the opinion of Jonathan Gale, CEO of cloud-based customer services platform provider, NewVoiceMedia. Last week the company released the results of research into consumer attitudes to customer services. The key messages are that consumers are now increasingly able and willing to switch brands at the click of a mouse and complaints are beginning to be aired on Facebook and Twitter.

 

To put it in to figures, the company claims British businesses lose £12bn a year to poor service although, although even if the number is accurate, there is a counterargument that the business is not lost but switched to another provider.

 

The more interesting part, for digital markets, is that nine in ten customers reveal they have switched a service online in the past year but only half bothered to raise the issue with the brand. So businesses only get to the chance to reverse half of the churn decisions that will impact them and, when they do, phone and email are neck and neck as the top channel of choice to raise an issue.

 

Given that the top gripes with customer services are exactly what you would expect – waiting too long and being passed around having to repeat the same information – Gale insists technology can help brands pre-empt problems. One of these growing problems is the vociferous social media complainer.

 

“Just using something as simple as Caller Line Identification can help a customer services representative have the necessary information on their screen as the call comes through so they can anticipate the issue,” he says.

 

“Sending along recent web activity is also a useful tool because it allows the person to see if the caller has been getting quotes from comparison sites or looking at rival offers. You can then go one step further and let the company know what social media following the caller has.

 

“But it’s a real moral question what you do with that information. If it’s Justin Bieber on hold, do you prioritise them over Joe Bloggs so if the call wait takes too long only a handful of people hear about it on Twitter rather than a few million? It’s been mooted for a while but it’s something we’re just starting to see customers asking us for.”

 

Without getting in to the moral debate over queue jumping, the same technology is being used more publicly to route customers with known issues to the most experienced customer services representative. This ensures they are dealt with by someone more capable of listening with empathy and reacting positively, according to Jag Tucker, VP Global Customer Service Operations at online psychometric test company, SHL Group.

 

“You can use the data that comes in with a call to recognise if it’s someone who’s already called so that information can be in front of the representative so they don’t have to repeat it again,” he says.

 

“There’s also the ability to recognise who your most loyal customers are and prioritise them over other callers, at the same time as putting them through to the most experienced customer services staff.

 

“The question will remain, though, whether any call centre owner should prioritise someone such as Lord Sugar and his massive Twitter following. It’s a really difficult question which there’s no easy answer to.”

 

At the moment the social media question is only beginning to become an issue because, according to the findings of the research published this week, only 2% of complaining is done via social media. However, the 16-24 year old demographic is five times as likely as any other to complain on Twitter or Facebook to advise peers not to use a particular brand. At the same time Facebook pages and Twitter feeds that were designed to feature promotional information can have the opposite effect and become cluttered with venting customers.

 

So, while placating customers who have problems can be as simple as answering the phone in a timely fashion and having files open in front of the operators so those problems can be pre-empted and resolved, social media ranking is set to be the next big issue brands examine. While it may not help a resolution, prioritising those who carry the most social clout can encourage positive posts and avoid calamities being escalated among massive follower groups. However, it does raise a serious moral question all companies are going to have to resolve internally.

 

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