3 Fascinating Social Customer Service Examples

How are brands responding to the challenge of delivering effective customer service? This was the question we posed the speakers and panellists at our Social Media Week London...

How are brands responding to the challenge of delivering effective customer service? This was the question we posed the speakers and panellists at our Social Media Week London (#SMWLDN) seminar yesterday. It’s fair to say, their response was fascinating.

Martin Hill-Wilson kicked off the event with a 15 minute charge through the challenges of social customer care. 71% of consumers complain online because traditional channels have failed (a little later on, Brad Bennett from Genesys backed this us, citing that – in our multi-channel world – 74% of people try three or more customer service channels to resolve the same issue).

Martin bemoaned the fact that most brands are still focused on social media marketing, while many (39% on average) of their customers reach out to them on social media for customer support – and warned against treating social support as a silo. A multi-channel service, incorporating mobile, social, e-commerce and face-to-face, requires a joined-up solution.


Leo Tennant, who heads up the social customer service team at online clothing store, Boden, then explained his very personal and human approach (see below). As we also heard in our Social Media Engagement for Retail webinar (you can listen again here), his team of three manages hundreds of daily queries – mainly on their Facebook Page – but also relies heavily on an army of around 150 “Boden Lovelies”, who answer many of the questions posted by shoppers and, when people are rude, respond appropriately, but in ways that the brand might not be able to.


In his session, Brad Bennett focused on the need for brands to maintain the conversation with consumers across multiple channels and devices. If someone tweets a query, can the same staff member tweet them a link to a live chat and continue to resolve the problem? If someone calls up, can you see the history of their posts to your Facebook Page, or tweets? There are complex issues of process and data verification that solutions like Genesys – our sponsors for the day – offer to large organisations, but the challenge is there for everyone.


Last up we had the mercurial Paul Bentley from Greater Anglia who deals with social customer service for “any trains out of Liverpool Street”. Paul’s team often receive over 1000 tweets a day – many of which are customers complaining about delays – and their primary purpose is to provide timely information for grumpy commuters (my words, not his, before you tweet him). This gives him a real-time picture of the problems Greater Anglia has, which he relays to his bosses with a ‘daily webwatch’ packed with verbatim quotes from their social channels. Visibility is the key here: Paul’s work gets taken very seriously by his bosses.

Passengers tweet about various problems with trains – things that need fixing, funny noises etc. – so Greater Anglia’s Social Media Team often know about problems before the train driver does. The data insights gleaned from these interactions are used to target resources effectively. @GreaterAnglia has accumulated over 20,000 Twitter followers and they see spikes in following whenever it snows! The company enables customers to ‘Tweet the Manager’ using the hashtag #TTMGA, which maintains their valuable two-way flow of feedback and information. See his presentation (below) for his full range of insights.


We finished the seminar with a lively discussion, which included Maria McCann (Aurora Fashions) and Joe Rice (Conversocial), in which the following points stood out for me:

  • When asked about whether to set up specific channels for social customer care, the panel were split. Paul Bentley suggested a single channel works best and suggested using the ‘downtime’ (in his case, non-commuting times) for marketing/promotions. It was also suggested that less time-sensitive businesses than rail travel might be better served with multiple channels and better signposting.
  • The internal collaboration between customer service and marketing was seen as a challenge. Working to a shared calendar, and a shared vision of the customer experience is essential. We’ll be discussing this in depth with Microsoft (and others) at Social Media Marketing 2013 in London on 24th Oct.
  • Integration between front-end engagement dashboards and traditional CRM solutions remains a challenge. Conversocial, our other sponsor at the event, offers integration with multiple CRM solutions (Salesforce etc.) while Genesys offers an end-to-end platform.
  • While brands are measuring response times on social, very few are measuring the quality of response yet. This is evidently one for the purists to work on.
  • Interestingly – we had one question about a brand not getting enough engagement through it’s social support channels. The panel’s response was to recommend listening and seizing opportunities to “delight” customers by solving their problems unasked.

We had lots of fine interaction on the Twitter hashtag #smwcustserv (see the best bits below) and vowed to do it all again next year. If you’d like an invitation, please join our mailing list via the ‘Email Updates’ button on the right.

Really enjoyed #smwcustserv . Very interesting- just wish I could have stayed for wine and a few chats with the brands about technology!

Really good talk by @greateranglia at #smwcustserv yesterday. I feel I learnt so much from you guys! *bows head*

Two-way conversations with customers on social means customers can help report issues on trains for quick fixes @Conversocial#smwcustserv

@martinhw discussing the role of social in your multi channel strategy #smwcustserv @Genesyslab_UK pic.twitter.com/8LH4o6C0IO

@greateranglia use social media as a key customer service channel with 23,000 followers #smwcustserv

Customers normally use 3 channels to contact an organisation but expect to have 1 conversation #smwcustserv @BradBennett @Genesyslab_UK

74% of people use at least 3 separate channels to try and contact a company #smwcustserv#smwlondon

@greateranglia talking at #smwldn talking about #smwcustserv, this could be interesting bearing in mind railways get hit hard on social.

So @Bodenclothing keeps their customers happy through actually being #Social! #smwcustserv

#smwcustserv is all about transparency, no more covering up complaints. Fix ongoing issues for good online / social referrals!

It really shouldn’t matter how many followers how big the bank account is .. Customer service should be the same #smw#smwcustserv

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    lbrynleyjones Reply

    Hi Jerome – Yes, Martin HW has told me about your Gratitude Index and I love the idea – nice and simple, but effective. I’ll follow up with you about this, as I’d like to know more.