Social Media vs. Call Centers: Which One Offers Superior Customer Service?

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A study conducted by Forrester Research recently revealed that consumers are utilizing social media more frequently for their customer service needs, but only 33 percent of organizations in the US and UK are putting any significant effort into social media customer service.

This disconnect is leaving a bad taste in the mouth of many consumers who prefer (and expect) to interact with companies on social media platforms. As consumers begin to force the issue, it’s left many organizations wondering where to focus their efforts. When it comes to social media or call centers, which platform offers truly superior customer service?

The High Expectations of Social Media

It’s no secret that hold times, background noise, limited hours, and the occasional surly representative at a call center can often be a source of frustration for customers. However, they know that once their call is answered, they will get a resolution to their problem.  This expectation of instant resolution is spilling over into the social sphere.

According to a survey conducted by The Social Habit, 32 percent of consumers who use social media to contact a company for customer-service related issues expect a response within 30 minutes, and 42 percent expect a response in one hour.  They also expect to receive these instant responses 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Considering the volume of customer service queries at large organizations, and the fact that social media is still widely seen as a function of the marketing team, most companies are not equipped to meet these extremely high expectations. Any customer service expert knows that response time is critical for maintaining customer satisfaction. When consumers do not receive a response in what they believe to be a timely fashion, it can set off a chain reaction of additional complaints and dissatisfaction.

Some Problems Can’t be Resolved Online

Even though more and more customers are taking their service issues to social media, many still prefer telephone communications. Customers know, without a doubt, that even if they end up on hold for ten minutes, their call will be answered and their problem will be resolved.

In many cases, there is no substitute for personal interaction. Some problems are simply too complicated for text-based interactions. In industries like healthcare and banking, some problems are too personal for the very public social sphere. Eliminating or taking resources away from call centers to focus on online service could have a detrimental impact on customer relationships for many organizations.

Which Method of Customer Contact is Better for Business?

Social Media vs. Call Centers: Which One Offers Superior Customer Service?So which form of customer service is better for consumers? Social media or call centers?

The benefits of call centers include:

  • Reps are able to express empathy that can be heard by the customer.
  • Customers receive instant resolution.
  • Secure communication for issues involving highly private and personal data.

The cons of telephone call centers:

  • Long queues times.
  • Frustrating and confusing menu operations.
  • Limited customer service hours.

The benefits of social media contact for customers:

  • Customers can leave messages 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at their convenience.
  • Social media can be accessed anywhere in the world.
  • Customers can use computers, smartphones, or tablets to reach an organization.

The cons of social media:

  • Many organizations don’t have social media service teams.
  • Long response and resolution time (or no response ever given).
  • Tone can be misinterpreted.
  • Not a secure platform to leave personal information.

Which of these approaches is right for business? The answer lies somewhere in between.

A Hybrid Approach to Social Media Call Centers

There are distinct benefits to both social media and call centers for customer service. However, call centers and social media teams are not islands unto themselves, and companies will have to begin integrating these teams in order to handle customer issues efficiently. By creating customer service teams that include both telephone and social media reps, organizations will be better equipped to handle customer issues quickly, no matter the channel.

A hybrid approach not only gives customers options for contacting an organization, but it also allows companies to personalize service like never before.  If a customer an issue that simply cannot be resolved online, but initiates contact via social media, online reps can respond quickly to acknowledge the issue. They can then have a rep call that customer, rather than forcing the customer to call in and wait on hold.

Social Media vs. Call Centers: Which One Offers Superior Customer Service?

These combined social media call center teams can give customers the convenience of social media contact, with the added value of personal service when direct contact is required.  In order to provide this, call centers will have to adopt unified communications systems that combine web, text, and telephone communications in the same platform. These systems will allow teams to track customer contact, problems, and resolutions across all channels, improving customer experience across the board.