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Published July 17th 2012

Brands on Social Media: The Customer Service Report 2012

We are pleased to release the results of the 2012 Customer Service Index, the second of our annual reports detailing brand customer service performance on the social web.

The findings – including an increase in downbeat posts compared to the previous year – show an ongoing shift towards resolving complaints online. But as some brands embrace online customer service, others are inadequately prepared for the modern consumer.

To cast your eyes over the full 2012 Customer Service Index, click here.

Brandwatch analysed 40 leading brands in a bid to spot the ‘heroes and villains’ of 2012. 12 months on from the previous report there are some interesting changes to the customer service arena. John Lewis, which managed a top 5 place in the 2011 edition, were this year’s winners. So well done to them.

The retail company attracted more praise than other brands, responded quicker to complaints, tweeted more frequently and personalised the content of their messages.

But John Lewis is going against the grain. While the company sustains its reputation for good customer service, other brands are facing more negative feedback on social media sites.

Industries associated with continuous services, such as telecoms and utility companies, didn’t fare quite so well, as is revealed in the report. This reflects the fact that ‘everyday’ products and services are not often considered newsworthy unless the consumer is dissatisfied.

Retail, by contrast, is more about one-off purchases which lend themselves towards more positive posts, as the customer is more likely to be inspired to comment on their new purchase rather than the less-exciting continuous service they receive.

However, the report isn’t simply dictated by market sector. A number of companies manage to succeed and fail regardless of what industry they sit in, meaning there are plenty of other surprises in store within the report.

John Lewis earned positive feedback by providing rapid responses to customer tweets. Personalised tweets also likely impacted on their score, contrasting with the generic replies given by other companies, prompting complaints such as:

TalkTalk customer service just read from a script with a flow chart. Not one of them seems to have the ability to deviate from this and actually apply a logical diagnosis”.

John Lewis’ more personable approach has helped them gain the number one spot.

Some new names joined the top 40 brand list in the 2012 report too. Groupon, the daily deals provider, featured in the index for the first time this year after growing from humble beginnings in 2008. Interestingly, the company was the most active on Facebook, with more page posts than any other brand. Groupon also responded to the greatest proportion of posts; 34% more than B&Q, which came in in second place. John Lewis, though leading on Twitter, had less than half of the presence of Groupon on Facebook.

The Facebook/Twitter divide was not absolute, with John Lewis responding to just over a third of all Facebook page posts. Brands do seem, however, to place heavier emphasis on one of the two sites. This could prove a valuable area for future research, as brands opt for sites which reflect their consumers. With rumours of Facebook pushing ‘social shopping’ initiatives, social media sites may also choose brands which reflect their users.

But for Groupon other factors come into play. The company may respond to 88% of Facebook posts, but the brand has an equally active counterpart. Sites such as the Facebook Groupon Complaints Page allow members to share their negative experiences. The page claims:

This page is for people to leave their complaints and rants about Groupon and what experiences they have about the company, it is not run by Groupon!”.

Other means of online customer service are also coming to the forefront. Sites such as the Customer Service Scoreboard allow users to rate their experiences of brands. The scoreboard was set up in 2009 and has now gained enough ratings to begin providing data, albeit on a much smaller scale than Brandwatch’s CSI.

Instant messaging is an increasingly popular channel for customer service, so may become integrated with social media sites in time.

Whereas consumers used to vent online only after other routes had failed them, social media is quickly becoming the first port of call for many brands’ customer services. If companies are to improve consumer relations, their online influence must be monitored, measured and acted upon.

Read the full report here.

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