Social Media: Will Engagement End Up in Overseas Call Centers?
September 27, 2010
In this review, we compare the outcomes and response times delivered by Network Solutions (an Internet services provider) through their traditional telephony customer service, to their social media response to us (‘We Engage’) through Facebook (FB). After making a complaint through FB regarding the performance of a new web site recently launched with our service provider, Network Solutions, we also rang their customer support telephone number and asked for help.
Our review revealed a strange paradox. While Network Solutions is entirely faster and demonstrates a more professional process through its telephony based customer service function, the quality of help and support through FB is a country mile in front of the level and quality of advice we found through the telephony function. Telephony support sounded scripted and without the authority to really dig into our problem. While the telephone was much faster, approaching them through FB gave us the ‘brains trust’ in the service function and entirely better information concerning our problem. Why?
Management in many companies are yet to embrace fundamental resource planning and work load analysis for engagement in social media. Maybe that’s because the technical aspects of social media are new and somewhat intimidating. Maybe the volume just isn’t there yet or they simply haven’t noticed the ongoing migration from telephony to social media for customer service and product support. Maybe it’s because control of the medium is being ‘hogged’ by the functions that use communication directly to generate revenue and customer service is seen as a peripheral function.
Right now, consumers are almost assured of getting a superior quality of response from customer service through social media (where those companies are active in social media) even though the speed of response through telephony is infinitely faster. Does an organization ‘jump higher’ for the marketing director than it does the customer service director? Will that change when the numbers of consumers seeking redress through social media increase? As the migration to social media accelerates, will the response times improve while the quality deteriorates? Will social media response end up in Indian or Asian call centers facing robotic script readers?
The technical problems we had with our web site aren’t entirely relevant to this review, but to provide some context, the site was slow to load and the WordPress (WP) plug-ins used to bring recent tweets and our last blog topic and excerpt were very unreliable. In Eight (8) out of ten (10) visits to our web site, the fields for the feeds were empty. We saw our developer place the site on their own server before the launch and the feeds worked just fine. We assumed the problem must be Network Solutions. To be fair to them, they claimed there was a problem at the WP end. In this review, the issue we are focusing on is the standard of engagement…response times and the level of response…rather than the question of whether Network Solution’s products and services ultimately live up to their brand promise. Here’s how the conversation went in FB (start at the bottom):
If you take a look at the time line for the messages left on their wall, it took them some 35 minutes to acknowledge our complaint. It took three (3) messages to get that response. When they did finally acknowledge us in FB it wasn’t to provide assistance, it was to ask us to email information to them so they could get a “specific team” to respond to us. We sent the email with our contact details at about 10:00am. They acknowledged receipt at 10:23am. We got a phone call from their technical assistance people at about 10:45am. Clearly, there is a very clunky ‘hand over’ process behind the scenes from FB to technical support.
Imagine if you were left waiting on the telephone for customer service to merely respond for 1 hour and 42 minutes. You would consider that a complete breakdown of service delivery. Social media is the looming future of communication for all business functions. It’s a point of arrival for the migration of consumers from telephony and email to social media. Every business function that has a communication element is going to need to take hold of the responsibility to apply it effectively. A big mistake being made in many companies is to subject social media exclusively to the management of public relations, corporate affairs or marketing. It’s a structural mistake…and that makes it a strategic mistake. A lot of business functions have been left standing on the curbside waiting for the social media bus while marketing and public relations have run with the ball in this new medium. This would explain the paradox of the Network Solutions response. I’ll be brave and suggest that the social media manager reports to the marketing or public relations director. Customer service may also report to marketing but there is a clunky sideways hand off to customer service and technical support. Why reinvent all those processes? Why isn’t customer service managing itself in social media?
Either their left hand doesn’t know what their right hand is doing in a customer service management context, or they are just practicing some form of Orwellian double think on service standards between the two mediums.
In any event, the standard for speed of response in social media is a pale shadow of that applied in traditional media. I’d wager there is no formal response time standard in social media engagement. Surely, the people managing their telephone service function would fall over dead if they knew the speed of response being doled out through social media. They are all customers aren’t they? We’re guessing the two mediums are managed independently.
The twist to our story is that the people who ultimately phoned us (yes, they phoned us) after our long wait time in FB are a level or two higher in customer service and technical support than the person we got to speak to during our initial telephone call to customer service. They knew more. They gladly gave us 25 minutes over the phone to discuss every aspect of my complaint. They weren’t scripted. They checked the set up and configuration…even some aspects of the code used for the site while we were on the phone. They ran a plug in ‘YSlow’ to evaluate the speed of the site while we were on the phone. The respective service levels were chalk and cheese…even though they didn’t solve the problem in the end. These people were behaving like the service elite of the company. We felt like we were talking to management. Can that level of resource be extended to everyone when they arrive in social media?