Social Media is one of the easiest ways to maintain a brand rapport within the Telecom industry which constantly indulges in price wars. Given a medium that helps brands connect directly with their consumers, it should have become priority to execute support seamlessly through integrated online channels. However, sadly this is not the case.
The telecom industry in certain aspects does not even fulfill the basics of customer service, leave alone strategies that enable brand loyalty. For my study, I picked the leading players as well as novice to strike a comparison among their social media engineering. Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communication, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India, Tata Docomo, Uninor, Aircel, MTS and Loop mobile have their presence on Social Media and I have taken a closer look at individual support services.
The Kind of Queries Brands Get
Customers have a lot of queries and complaints regarding the products and services of the brands. These queries are about tariff plans and add-on services. The complaints are mostly related to billing and network issues. Airtel gets the most number of queries and complaints on its Twitter and Facebook accounts with over 40 posts a day. Other brands do not receive so many queries but even if they do, they choose to redirect the customers to a weblink, a toll free number or email address.
Even simple queries which can easily be solved if the representatives are trained to respond get redirected. For instance, a user is asking for a list of latest offers but Docomo chooses to give a weblink instead of checking the link themselves and offering an answer.
Aircel too does not pay heed to straightforward questions. How much time would it take for Aircel to ask the user to send across the number, or better track the number through the name and deactivate a service. It should not take more than 15 minutes if the executive is trained to do so.
How often they Respond and their response time
Most brands do not respond on Facebook and only some respond on Twitter. Aircel and MTS have even closed their page for user posting. The comments section of every brand on my list is brimming with conversation that is damaging the brand reputation and the brands simply do not care. A huge list of complaints against Idea Celullar has gone unanswered on Facebook.
The response time of the brands on Facebook is an average of 2 days. While Airtel is the fastest at 4 hours, Uninor takes upto 3 days. This is a lot of time for a medium like Social Media where response time is one of the most important metrics to measure success. A very casual attitude comes across among all telecom brands while analyzing their customer support strategy.
On Twitter, again Airtel responds the fastest within an average time of 8 hours while Uninor takes over 2 days.
What is their first response
Template lines are all you will find if you scout through the social media pages of these brands. It is unbelievable how brands can use standard lines while replying to the most basic question. It should be understood that users have tried the traditional methods of calling and emailing and are tweeting to get a faster response. Airtel surely replies the fastest and the most out of all brands but all it responds with is repeated lines. Aircel and Reliance Communications too follows suit.
Vodafone too does not take customer service seriously on social media. The user below has only raised a concern regarding the fact that he does not have the customer contact number. Vodafone has clearly not even read the query and copy pasted the line used above within half an hour of first contact. They have done the same thing on Twitter.
There is a classic case of Loop mobile not replying to a customer and the customer has posted a damaging reply to every user complaint post that. Unfortunately, Loop mobile still did not pay any heed to this user.
Uninor directs people to their offline customer care service, claiming that it is speedy. What can be more speedy than an efficient online customer support set up on Social Media?
Even worse, Vodafone asks its customers to visit the gallery to solve their query. It is understandable that some problems cannot be resolved on Social Media if there is a technical issue but a proper apology, followed by an assurance can be the first response by a brand instead of bluntly asking them to visit the gallery.
When a user responds saying they are interested in changing the service provider, Vodafone does not care to reply further. Such is the sad state of the telecom industry on Social Media.
MTS does not have a presence on Twitter and does not reply on Facebook.
Their overall approach to customer support service
The customer support strategy of the telecom industry can be explained in three words; Haphazard, unhelpful and slapdash. I assumed that I can expect a good strategy in place since most leading players like Vodafone, Airtel, Reliance communication have given enough importance to customer support in the non virtual world. However, they are clearly not bothered about customer sentiments online.
The average turnaround time in resolving an issue
I can hardly comment on this since 2 out of 9 brands close customer complaints on social media. The two brands Docomo and Reliance communication who close complaints too do not respond if a customer has further queries.
Reliance communication closed a query after 10 days but the user still did not get his problem resolved and no further communication was initiated by the brand. After coming across a few such instances, I am wondering if Reliance has been closing complaints without even verifying the same.
Docomo however has closed the complaint very well with a complaint number and an invitation to raise further queries. This builds trust in another customer and assures him that his/her complaint will be resolved. However, Docomo still took 3-4 days which is rather slow.
How to improve customer support strategy on Social Media
The telecom industry is nowhere near good when they should be excellent in online customer support owing to the number of complaints they get each day. Inspite of the social media industry growing leaps and bounds, the brand managers have not been able to keep up with technology. Improving their customer support strategy on social media should be the primary objective of the leading telecom brands.
- Expand your customer support team to integrate offline strategy into online operations. Apart from expanding, brands should realize that unless there is a swift response on these public platforms, they are not taking complete advantage.
- Customer support should be present round the clock, every day of the week and at every hour of the day. This ensures bundles of credibility and loyalty considering the fact that not many are doing this. If your brand begins executing brilliant customer support of Facebook and Twitter, you will have an added advantage over competitors.
- Brand image and tonality should be replicated while executing customer support online. For instance Vodafone has been resonated with Happy to Help for long but this is not extended on Social Media. Also, Airtel is a happy brand but this is not conveyed online. The tone of Airtel customer support online is hardly Happy!
- Instead of constantly trying to redirect queries and complaints to emails and toll free numbers, the brands should publicly solve the queries. How difficult is it to deactivate a service or track down a query through a number? Or even track down a number by referring to the name of the customer, if displayed in full on social profiles.
- Using advanced technology or supporting your business conversations via a customer service tool can help your brand resolve queries swiftly. It organizes the overall CRM process and eliminates scope of haphazardness.
There is a major scope of improvement once these brands start working on the basics. Technology being core in their operations should be incorporated within this segment too. Sadly, the brands only tend to ignore the gains.
Expert View by Jayanta Bhattacharjee, Marketing Manager, India, SAARC and Middle East at Aspect Software – A leading provider of fully-integrated customer interaction management, workforce optimization, and back-office solutions.
The telecommunications industry has laid emphasis on inter-human relationships for decades through traditional media channels. Replication of these attributes on social media channels through facilitating seamless customer service should have been priority for leading telecom brands. However, online CRM is hardly integrated with the contact centers of the brands.
Customer service is enroute social media at a rapid pace. Brands need to surpass creating strategic content buckets and grandstand their CRM services in order to reverse the existing scenario. Usage of first-rate tools to manage queries and boost the turnaround time for replies is key to empowering brand image through socially viable practices.