If you’ve ever waited an hour and a half on hold for the sole purpose of spewing vitriol at an underpaid and woefully ill-informed customer service rep, only to be left unsatisfied and a little bit dead inside when it’s all over (who hasn’t), you’re in luck! A new study by research firm CFI Group finds that social media has increasingly served to “blunt” our collective hatred of call centers.
According to CFI Group’s newly released Call Center Satisfaction Index, social outlets such as Facebook and Twitter allow consumers to more easily interact and vent their frustrations, in turn causing them to feel that they are better heard by the vast, faceless companies with which they have problems. The simple act of posting can be cathartic for many: As Terry Redding, director of development and delivery for CFI Group asserts, “What we are seeing is that, if you have a bad experience, you post it once on Facebook for all to see and then you’re done with it.”
The study also found that negative experiences on Facebook and Twitter were overwhelmingly drowned out by the positive ones — a fact that companies with poor service are probably giddy about. As Redding states, “we’ve observed that positive comments generally outweigh negative ones almost as a rule,” and that while users may be apt to quickly take to social networks with their gripes, the “sheer number of positive experiences and positive posts seems to be outweighing negative word-of-mouth in volume.”
Outsourcing the outsourcing
Although US tech companies have in recent years begun to reverse the historic trend of outsourcing core business segments — only 32 percent reported outsourcing jobs of any kind in 2012 — outsourced customer service is in fact on the rise. Of the US companies that reported sending jobs overseas, customer service jumped from 12 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2012. It may also be unsurprising that offshore call centers fared far worse than their domestic analogues in this year’s satisfaction survey.
It makes sense then that companies have turned to social networking as another means to reduce the costs of customer support. By presenting a seemingly open-ended dialogue between business and consumer, services such as Twitter and Facebook reduce the call-volume on the real-life customer service representatives, though not always for the better: CFI also found that “27 percent of respondents had tried to resolve their issues elsewhere prior to resorting to working with the call center,” — “elsewhere” being primarily though the web — and that once respondents did take the step to pick up the phone, their complaints were usually more complex and difficult to resolve.
This report comes on the heels of another recent study which found that social networks can have a profound impact on consumer spending — according to the University of Miami School of Business, the mere presence of a Facebook or Twitter icon near a product on a webpage can influence buying decisions by up to 25 percent, further demonstrating the growing relationship between social networks and businesses.