Everyone has their own customer service horror story, but few of them have a happy ending. And even fewer of those are when you’re dealing with a huge conglomerate.
But even the big boys are realising that utilising social media can completely change how their company is perceived.
If you’d have recently asked me my thoughts on BT customer service, it would have been a expletive-laden reply you wouldn’t want your kids to hear. I was having a nightmare moving house, and after promising me a “no wait switch on” with my broadband, BT then informed me it would take 10 days to get it turned on. After all that, they still managed to disconnect me 4 weeks later, after the previous occupants didn’t pay their final bill.
Cue multiple 2 hour phone calls, being passed from department to department, speaking to innumerable women named “Judith”, none of whom cared about my problem due to the fact that it didn’t perfectly match an entry in their scripts. One department blaming another, put through to someone new and having to explain everything again, or (my bugbear) having to call back on another number, as they can’t put your call through to the right person.
So I did what any enraged hyper-connected geek would do. I got on Twitter, and had a bitch about it.
I was expecting a few @replies from followers who had similar nightmare stories. But about 10 minutes later, someone called Stephanie from @btcare Tweeted back with a simple “any way we can help?” – opening the lines of communication between customer and consumer immediately. For the sake of shortening the story, all I need to say is that within 24 hours the problem was solved, and I was kept informed every step of the way.
There are hundreds of reasons why I think this approach works better than the current call centre cancer running through the customer service industry, here’s just a few:
Multiple concurrent tickets If you check the @btcare page now, you’ll see that they have one person dealing with many problems at once. As support can be provided in an asynchronous manner, there’s no need to wait on the line while a user checks their computer , or while BT look up something on their system. So time is used effeciently by both parties, meaning more work can be done with less people.
One problem, one person Anyone who has had a customer service nightmare can relate to this – there’s nothing worse than following a problem through, and having to reiterate your problem every time you make a phonecall. With @btcare, there are two people working in shifts, so if you maintain contact over one time period, they’re likely to be fully aware of all the details of your problem.
Traceable, by both parties I got into a shouting match with a TV manufacturer once, who charged me £75 for a maintenance callout, and when I called they said “we informed you about this during our last call”. They didn’t, but there was no way I could prove it. Now, I can track the conversation on Twitter, and when it went over into my email all was saved for future prosperity.
More communication channels available I think this is my favourite. The initial outreach was done via Twitter, and private details along with error messages were sent on an email follow-up. After 24 hours, Stephanie called to see if everything was working OK. Each time, the medium perfectly matches the message, and all options are available for @btcare at all times. If I ring a call centre, we’re going to be on the phone and that’s it – limited by the constraints of the telephone.
Naysayers might think that this Twitter approach can only work one person at a time, but BT, like many companies venturing into social media, are aware of the power of word of mouth, and that active internet users are vocal both in their ferocity and their praise. Could we see the day that companies without active customer support teams working across social media are seen as those in the 90s who stuck with the Yellow Pages instead of getting a website?
If you’ve read this far (fingers crossed) I’d like to think that your opinion of BT customer service is less a faceless name in a huge call centre in India, and more Cameron and Stephanie in a little Irish town called Enniskillen. And I can only hope that this post gets filled with Google Juice, and manages to make it up those rankings so that when people do search for “BT Customer Service” they know that BT trying to fix something that is so obviously broken.