Charter ditch social customer service

Amongst all the ‘2013 social media predictions’ out there, one that keep cropping up is “2013 is the year social customer service will go mainstream”. It’s hardly an...

Amongst all the ‘2013 social media predictions’ out there, one that keep cropping up is “2013 is the year social customer service will go mainstream”.

It’s hardly an earth-shattering prediction. We’ve seen social customer service gradually growing in prominence for the past couple of years and it’s already very difficult for brands to ignore – despite their best efforts.


Charter’s social media team

Yet last month Charter Communications (a US cable company) shut down their social customer service efforts. Their explanation read:

“We believe speaking directly with a customer is a more personal, effective and consistent way to answer questions, solve an issue or provide information, and we will focus our efforts on these means of communications. We’re committed to treating our customers with great care, and we believe that person-to-person interaction accomplishes that in a more meaningful way for more of our customers.”

Apparently this came as something of a shock to many of their customers who claimed to have received excellent, efficient and personal service from @Umatter2Charter (note the ironic name) and their social media team.

In reality this was probably a cost-cutting manoeuvre. But has the social media marketing department also been affected? It seems not, certainly not to the same extent anyway.  Their Facebook page is busy handing out Kindle Fire HD’s left, right and centre (accompanied by ‘engagement strategies’ that even The Condescending Corporate Brand would be proud of). The only difference is that they now ignore any customers looking for help.

I’m at a loss to see the business sense in this. Globally, companies spend the equivalent of 2% of their marketing budget on actively maintaining relationships, yet I can confidently assume that existing customers account for slightly more than 2% of profits.

If companies like Charter are looking to cut back on spending, this is not the area to target. Considering the role that social media plays in reputation management and the fact that 86% of us have stopped using a company because of bad customer service, Charter may come to regret this move. Hopefully this example will be an exception to the rule and, as we all predict, 2013 will be the year that social customer service goes mainstream.

On January 22nd, we are hosting a free webinar on Monitoring for Social Customer Service. We will be joined by some expert speakers including Ronan Gillen (EU Complaints and Social Customer Service Manager for eBay) and Leon Chaddock from Social Media Monitoring specialists, Sentiment Metrics.

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    Paul Scott Reply

    A glance at Charter’s Wikipedia entry tells a sorry story. Bankruptcy, a corporate fraud case and according to JD Power, one of the worst customer service rating and one of the ‘Most hated companies in America’. They’ve had massive staff retrenchments, call centre closures and run on their stock price. Stopping social customer care seems like quite an insignificant event against this background!

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      Jeremy Taylor Reply

      Well, they emerged from bankruptcy in 2009 and the corporate fraud case was in 2005, so I’m not either of those effects things. I think the fact that they have a terrible customer service rating and are ‘one of the most hated companies in America’ only strengthens the point. They were finally doing something right with social customer service, and yet they turned their back on it. With that attitude and disregard for their customers, I’m not surprised they’re so disliked.

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