Nationwide Building Society in the UK have been making big about the fact that they now provide 24/7 customer service support via Twitter. They point out that Nationwide were the first High Street banking firm to take this step and thus they have stolen a march on their competitors. The message is that Nationwide are really in touch with what people are doing with their products and services - and how they want to access those products and services.
Tony Prestedge, Nationwide’s Chief Operating Officer, says: “The massive success of Nationwide’s mobile banking app proves that people want to be able to manage their money on the move and at any time of day. With that in mind, we have opened up our popular @AskNationwide Twitter to ensure our customers can also Tweet us and get a fast response at any time of day... At Nationwide we have embraced Twitter and are using it as an integral part of our customer service and support strategy.”
Nationwide, just like many other brands understand that Twitter is now a big enough channel on its own to warrant this level of dedicated service and are reacting to a massive change in how the public communicate using new technology. How did it come about so quickly?
The history of the use of the # or hashtag on social media platforms can be traced back to a Tweet by Chris Messina (@chrismessina), one of the first pioneering Twitter users and Social Media trendsetter from the early years of the social platform. The hashtag was successfully pitched to the online community as a way to organise messages into meaningful categories or to tag relative streams of information. Hashtags have since been embraced by Twitter users globally as a way to classify the often frenzied exchange of thoughts and information on the social networking site.
The use of hashtags on Twitter evolves on a daily basis even today, growing in much the same way as it began. Users continue to explore the different applications of hashtags, and collectively control the future of channel tagging on Twitter.
The depth of analytical information which is freely available is really mind blowing, with many inexpensive #cloud based applications available to provide a really drilled down insight into what is actually happening right now and what people are thinking about with a specific brand, news item or gossip story. There really is no hiding place. Here are some live stats for #customerservice on Twitter.
We have seen that social media users are more than happy to vent their frustrations on their keypads or smartphones quicker than you can say ‘’operator, give me customer service’’. The fact is that whether some individual reaction on Twitter is an accurate picture of reality or not is almost irrelevant. It appears that the speed of the response and the way that it is handled is more important.
Jeff Bezos, CEO at Amazon.com described it in this way: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.”
Nike’s Separate Handle
@NikeSupport is the prime example of social customer service done really well. They constantly respond to followers on Twitter. Almost every few seconds, you can watch them respond to someone new in multiple languages. This is a remarkable achievement given the size of the company and the incredible vastness of the product range that make up their portfolio. However, while Nike supports lots of different Twitter handles to suit followers interested in specific parts of that portfolio, @NikeSupport is entirely focused on providing help to their customers.
However, #imho the key thing here is that this is not going to be unique to large corporations, or mega brands like Nike, Amazon and Nationwide. SMBs will need to be able to provide the same level of support, since their customers will of course use social media to communicate just as they do with the bigger brands. If there is no response online it could have the same effect as an abandoned call. Just like with voice calls, the volume of activity will have a relative impact on the amount of #socialcustomerservice agents required to handle those contact volumes based upon a Service-level or AHT (Average Handling Time) that will in time become industry standard - for example, 80% in 20secs for inbound calls.
There are many examples of how ‘going social’ with your customer service can give you a big competitive advantage. Starbucks are the only consumer brand in the top 200 twitter accounts. Brands like Betfair and Paddy Power refer to their Twitter accounts in almost every piece of advertising they do, even replying to follower questions on their adverts.
Social media provides an open forum to communicate with your customers, both pre and post sales. Using the right technology to effectively plan for handling inbound contacts and outbound responses, brands can deliver great holistic customer service. The ultimate goal is to turn customers who are thinking about #Bashtaging you into advocates of your brand.
Who knows, they might even follow you on Twitter!