Improve service and keep customers by not being a magpie

Jail Bird II

Wherever I turn these days, I hear and read mentions of social customer service – the provision of customer service by social media channels – and how it’s great and will transform the delivery of customer service in organisations.


But, is there a bigger thing at play here? Is it that we, in business, are all ‘magpies’ by nature and only interested in the next, new and shiny thing?

I think so.

So, let’s call it how it is……social customer service is just not that important for most UK firms’ customer service (right now).

Why do I say that? Well, my own experience with clients, my own experience as a customer and a recent survey by Portal suggests that:

“social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook are in fact the least favoured method of communicating with a business regarding customer service for a third (31 per cent) of Brits. Just two per cent claimed that the new median is their preferred method, while email and telephone enquiries were far more popular, with 52 and 19 per cent of respondents respectively stating that they are their favoured channels.”

Now, whilst getting to grips with and integrating social customer service into business operations may be interesting for many and a challenge for some businesses it is only a last resort for many customers.

The survey goes onto say that, in fact, email, phone and face to face are still the preferred methods for many businesses too.

So, extrapolating from the survey, we can imply that if social media is the last resort for customers then it may already be too late and businesses have already failed many of their customers already as they have not been able to get a hold of them using other means.

Email, phone and face to face channels may not be sexy and fashionable right now but customers still prefer them. It may feel mundane and hard work to research, analyse, unpick and improve your service by these more traditional channels. But, that’s the ‘grind’, the investment that needs to be made, if delivering great service is your aim and you want to keep your customers coming back for more and more.

Sure, pay attention and integrate social customer service into your mix. But, prioritise traditional channels before that as that’s where your customers are. In doing so, you might just deal with many of the complaints and reputation management issues that you’re facing on the social side too.

Photo Credit: dingopup via Compfight cc


  1. Great post, Adrian.

    Two thoughts…

    1. I think businesses still need to be there.
    2. While … “social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook are in fact the least favoured method of communicating with a business regarding customer service for a third (31 per cent) of Brits.” … that means 69% of Brits don’t mind communicating this way. And while it may be “least favoured” for 31%, this doesn’t tell us that those 31% don’t use it at all… just that they don’t prefer it.

    So, back to point #1, businesses need to be there and need to not ignore this channel. As I noted in a recent post I wrote: it’s just another channel of communication with/for customers.

    Annette :-)

    • Thanks, Annette.
      I would agree that many businesses do need to be there but many go there without fixing or improving their existing channels. That’s the biggest mistake in my view.

      Adding channels won’t help if existing channels are not effective.


  2. Hello Adrian
    When working at Portal, the marketing manager came to me with the survey results shocked. Why? She had been reading all the stuff of about social and how important it is.

    Just goes to show that what gets the column inches isn’t necessarily what really matters. Reminds me of a book about risk. What makes the news is airplane crashes and scary new killer diseases; what kills people is cars and the diseases associated with processed food and an office/couch potato lifestyle.

    Whilst I have tried social customer service, I have found myself frustrated. To get anything done I have had to resort to the telephone. Why? Because anything other than a generic plea for help or a rant cannot be done in 140 characters – at least not be me.


    • Hi Maz,
      You make a very valid point when you say “Just goes to show that what gets the column inches isn’t necessarily what really matters”. We seem to be being trained to be pretty good magpies by the media, commentators and vendors.

      Whilst I can see the benefit of social customer service in some cases and for some customer groups, I get frustrated when it displaces more traditional and just as effective methods just because its new.


  3. Adrian,

    My honest view is that social customer service is a load of old claptrap invented by people trying to sell books.

    The trick is to realise that providing good service is important. Whether that is by e-mail, twitter, telephone or carrier pigeon is at best of secondary importance.

    I hope that is me firmly off the fence on that one.


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