Are we in danger of creating a customer caste system?
Or put another way, if a customer service complaint falls into the phone queue, and not on Twitter or Facebook, will anybody hear?
Last week I descended into the customer service underworld when I lost my wallet on the Washington Metro. You know the drill-first denial, then acceptance, then phone calls to your credit card companies (at one time I subscribed to one of those services that registers all your cards and does the cancelling for you, but I could never keep my cards up to date.) If you are lucky enough to have an admin and think that you can outsource some of these tasks, forget it. There are no consistent qualifying questions that you can provide, and every call-switch is different.
My worst experience was with the company lucky enough to be my primary bank - BankofAmerica. I had to call three different divisions within the company to cancel three different cards, and not even on the first try. I think I had to make a combination of six different calls or transfers, and each time I had to battle my way past several call switches to get to a real person. Twice I was asked to provide lettered information using the "touch pad on my phone;" naturally I was using a smart phone and for the life of me I never believed it important enough to learn the letters on a traditional phone keypad.
Low and behold, the next time I connected to Tweetdeck I saw a tweet from @cathybrooks, social media and customer service expert whose tweets are trenchant and lively. She was singing the service praises of @bankofamerica. I responded that my own experience with their channel was terrible. Within minutes I'd been tweeted from @bofa_help, asked for an explanation and a follow, allowing me to DM the team my contact information.
Within the hour I had received a call from "Cardmember Services, the Office of the President," and had a detailed engagement with Greg Smith about the process I had slogged through, unsuccessfully. He was not only sympathetic, but he paid particular attention to things like having to input a textual response from a smart phone. He was able to look at my entire banking relationship (I have several business and personal accounts with BofA) and fix the outstanding problems. Brand spanking new cards arrived within 36 hours.
Okay, you might say, this proves that BofA is a great customer service organization after all, and is hip to social CRM. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I'd have to say that the most positive part of the experience was Greg's promise to look at how phone service is being delivered. Had I not been willing to tweet, and had I not responded to a Twitterer (Cathy) with a large following, would my complaint have been heard?
"The reason that 'The Office of the President' gets involved is because the tools for monitoring, analyzing and capturing customer sentiment have improved dramatically in the past year," notes Dan Miller, a senior analyst and founder at San Francisco-based Opus Research, focused on analysis around voice services and recombinant communications. "Social media specialists, residing outside the traditional contact center, can have access to "dashboards" and control panels that detect, isolate and identify angry customers and recommend action."
Miller adds: "When it comes to support, the Web and the phone are at parity, preferred by about 70% of respondents, while fewer than half turned to social networks and fewer than one-fifth used blogs or tweets to register complaints. But those figures belie a profound "inversion" that is taking place as Twitter and Facebook become the go-to sites for getting a rise from the executive suites where people take an immediate interest in keeping their companies brands from getting tarnished. That 1/5 of the customer base that uses Twitter or the Facebook fan page to communicate negative sentiment has influence that exceeds his or her reach - especially over the phone line."
There are still a lot of unhappy customers, though, and unless and until CRM can more effectively integrate the caller into the more advanced digital systems, that won't change. There are a ton of new tools and solutions out there; Lou Dubois and I have seen some impressive demos from SAP and Microsoft lately. But I worry that so much attention is being paid to social that traditional service is going to be neglected.
What are your thoughts?