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The Telegraph: Make complaints social

17 October 2014 | 03:37 am

This weekSocial Media Customer Service The Telegraph encouraged the public to take their utility bill disputes online.

In particular, their report says that the British public are far more likely to receive a prompt response via social media in comparison with more traditional channels, such as pen and paper!

The Telegraph recommends that the public “Make your complaint as public as possible and this will ensure you reach the broadest audience.”  Citing the ‘public nature’ of social media as a critical element of getting an issue dealt with quickly, and by implication it suggests that companies are keen to avoid public blushes and dents to their reputation.

Nicole Blackmore, Senior Personal Finance Reporter went as far as recommending that people should “Use official Facebook pages, and those set up by customers, such as the “Boycott npower” page, to get your voice heard.”

To prove the point, Telegraph Money tweeted Npower highlighting the plight of 25 customers, who were thrilled to see their cases brought to a prompt resolutions despite months of tackling their own endeavours.

Whilst, we are social media’s biggest advocates when it comes to customer service in this scenario, we should perhaps not overlook the additional influence (in this example) of having The Telegraph hot on the heels of the energy giant.  The additional threat of print and digital news coverage no doubt also played a significant role in the ‘prompt’ response.

However, the report does reinforce the picture that we are seeing across the country.  Customer service is a key part of the social media environment. Even back in 2013, BDO in ‘Following the Trends’ reported that already 54% of local authorities had turned to social media channels to deliver customer service.

And whilst the ‘public’ nature of social media complaints does create some very new challenges for the Crisis PR protocols, perhaps the most enlightening element of the debate is the way the public are able to ‘market test’ if their complaint makes the cut!

In the 80s, the only way the public could gauge if they had a legitimate issue was sat in front of the box,  hearing Nick Ross or his predecessor Hugh Sully featuring their issue on Watchdog. The Watchdog team performed a significant public service in finding and prioritising the issues for the British Public. But they also had to factor in if a story was relevant to the masses and suitable for the screen.

Today, the irony is that the same Watchdog research team will probably spend hours scanning the same social arenas that the British public frequent, to discover the ‘hot’ topics of the moment.

There is no question that social media has elevated awareness of complaints to heady heights.  But perhaps the most powerful element of social media complaints are the ‘likes’ and public collaboration which creates a synergy of effect, helping people pool evidence and facts, raising the credibility of their issue.

So it appears that complaints are taking the Ebay credibility stars route. A member of the public can see how many other complainants are on their side.  Enjoying the confidence that comes with knowing that ‘you are not alone’ and that if push came to shove, everyone with that same issues could act together in synergy or as The Telegraph suggests, meet ‘virtually’ on a Facebook page.

A Npower spokesperson (mentioned within the article) admitted that they now have six people working full time on the company’s Twitter feed,  recognising that social media is a key channel used for gripes about customer service.

We know that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  In fact, we are hearing from our colleagues (in recruitment) that they can’t get their hands on good quality social media managers quick enough and perhaps colleges and universities need to up their game in this regard - perhaps another issue for The Telegraph to champion?

Blackmore admits that Npower are not alone on this issue. She hasn't let Scottish Power or British Gas off the hook either!

Whilst our sympathy rests with the complainants, we can’t help giving the Npower social media team a quick cheer. They must be doing a really great job to achieve the accolade from the National Press.

Keep up the good work Npower social, we are all watching and learning with you!

Michelle Leavesley

Marketing Director CrowdControlHQ

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