Carol Borghesi Carol Borghesi SVP, Customers First Culture - TELUS

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The Role of Social Media in the Telco Customer Experience

  • In the telecoms industry, consumers are being offered more choice, products and sophisticated packages as services converge. Customers have a greater number of questions and more complex requirements to be addressed. To maintain happy customers, Telcos need to ensure customer service keeps pace with customer behavior. So how can Telcos do this?

    When developing strategic plans, it’s worth assigning greater importance to the use of social media as a customer support channel. Conversations are increasingly taking place online and via social networks – so companies need to rethink how they interact with customers.

    To date, big tech brands like Dell, Google and HP have all embraced social media as a new support channel. And this trend is set to continue according to analyst firm Gartner with at least 35% of customer service centers expected to have some form of social capability by 2013.

    The Social Gap: Brand vs. Customer Support

    However, there’s a catch. Although many companies are getting excited about using social media as a customer support channel (a channel which I call ‘social care’), they need to realize the medium cannot be a substitute for the overall customer experience. It’s more than just an add-on: social care needs to be fully integrated into the overarching customer experience strategy.

    A recent benchmarking study of seven Fortune 500 companies reiterated the growing importance of social media as a customer service touchpoint. However, while all companies studied received high marks from customers for their corporate brand, the sentiment scores they received for customer support in social conversations were consistently lower.

    This might not be a huge surprise when you consider that service needs are the main reason customers contact a brand via a social network. However, when done right, well-executed online customer service has the potential to boost overall brand perception. It can drive positive conversations and contribute to brand equity – Zappos being the most well-known example.

    The results in this study show that big brands are doing very different things when it comes to providing social care. Even among high-tech leaders, best practices across all social channels are just emerging. For example, Apple, known for its community forum, allows consumers to advise others on Apple-related queries. The first person to respond correctly earns member points. Google is also often applauded for its ‘how to’ YouTube tutorials. However, neither company offers comparable support on other social care channels – such as Facebook and Twitter.

    This may be understandable given the nascent state of social care, but will be a major missed opportunity as a comprehensive online customer service strategy can have such a positive influence on company brand.

    The telco industry also has room to grow in the use of social care. A recently created Facebook success index by BillingViews looked at how well operators are using Facebook to engage with customers regardless of size, benchmarking “likes” as a percentage of subscriber base. After examining 70 operators across the globe, no one surpassed the six percent mark—indicating that we are still early using Facebook as a customer communications channel as well.

    Social Care Checklist

    So how do you better engage customers and introduce social media as a customer support channel? 

    First and foremost, companies need to craft a customer experience strategy. It’s this strategy that will guide an organization’s choices, including how it will use social media to support customers.

    Once this is in place, you need to identify the best practices for social care that support your customer experience goals. This should include:

    • The appropriate communication style to reflect the voice and tone of the brand;
    • A response roadmap to reduce the risk of erratic responses by employees;
    • Following through on customer conversations to build real relationships; and
    • Proactive social care to spot issues before they become widespread on the web.

    Social media is a powerful, immediate and emotive communications channel and when used correctly, it can truly enhance the customer experience. However, before opening the social media flood gates, realize that it needs to be founded in your overall customer strategy, which keeps the customer experience at the forefront.

    Carol Borghesi
    About Carol Borghesi Carol Borghesi works as SVP, Customers First Culture at TELUS
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