According to a recent Forrester study, only about 37% of brands scored "good" or excellent in customer service reviews. 

As customers move more and more online for their primary sources, some brands are struggling to create single-view profiles of their customers, and customer satisfaction is dropping.

Companies like Barclays may be a primary example of those who promote themselves as being digitally forward (especially as it moves into the mobile payment space), but are falling behind in their traditional forms of customer service.

Take, for instance, my own experience with Barclays. At the end of June, fraud was committed on my card. I was out more than 2000 pounds before Barclays (or I) was aware of what was happening. Because I was overseas and not where my bank was based (plus, my card was blocked and most of my money was gone), I had to rely on the customer service team to help me resolve this.

Instead of a speedy resolution, July 2 was the start of a month-long battle with call center staff, continual misinformation, and too many requests for faxes (apparently it's still 1984). I still don't have all my money nor do I have a bank card but I've had at least three letters telling me what they may or may not do. The situation is bleak. 

What stuck with me after this experience was the disconnect between Barclays' teams. If this was a lost shipment or an overcharge, I would have been annoyed, but when you have a financial crisis, you expect a level of service higher than a retail provider.

Faxes took two days to process in their British office (the team had to scan them and send them to the call center in India), notes on cases weren't recorded in any globally accessible CRM system, and promised follow-ups were never delivered. 

The social media team behind @Barclaysonline was the most responsive of the customer service team but also the most powerless. They were the only team that allowed email communication and continuously called to follow up, but they seemed to have no ability to make changes or access main customer records to leave notes. They tried their best but couldn't get near to first-contact resolution. In fact, the Barclays team seemed to have difficulty doing it within 20 contacts. 

I am not alone in this disconnected world. Another Barclays customer described her experience: 

Barclays' Twitter service was a lot better. They were timely and even though I resolved my issue on my own, the phone care guys weren't as sympathetic, but they tried.

I didn't get that far in with the Twitter team, but definitely felt like they were disconnected in terms of their CRM. It seemed really off that the phone team didn't offer ANY solutions. I'm abroad and didn't have access online so it was pretty frustrating.

It seemed like the Twitter guys just 'got' it a bit more and approached me in a way that resonated with me.  

According to data on customer service compiled by Dumbli, 89 percent of consumers admit to moving to a competitor after a bad customer service experience. Half of these consumers only give a company one week to respond to their question or complaint before they move on. If financial service providers improved their customer service, they could be saving themselves an upward of 10 billion dollars.

First Direct in the UK have seemed to master their customer service channels so why haven't all businesses made this change?

I spoke with Conversocial CEO Joshua March on the source of this customer service disconnect and why customers are shifting to social.

In most cases, customers are coming to social media for two reasons. Either the customer has tried the traditional route of emailing or phoning and are frustrated and turn to social as a last resort, or social platforms are their preferred space and is the first place they go for service.

As social media has traditionally been owned by marketing, most customer service teams weren't either allowed into or brought into the social mix but were only used to forward issues for resolution. Continuing this approach is a mistake according to March:

Often we'll see, as people are getting these customer service issues and can't cope with them all, marketing teams are needing to persuade customer service to give them agents. They are effectively on loan to the marketing team. Eventually that grows and grows until the company realizes it needs a proper social customer service team in the call center. 

Even then it usually takes executive buy-in to say that customer service needs to be involved or have a forward-thinking marketing team.

This shift of thinking is creating a new model of social teams being made up of real customer service agents in the call center who can actually resolve customer issues. This is the only model that actually works at scale, and it's the model being rolled out by a large number of companies now.

The model of a single customer service team (especially a single CRM system) may help companies like Barclays create a single customer profile but first a whole new set of processes and workflow need to be developed.

As a company, Barclays has a difficult road ahead, but unless they solve this disconnect at a customer level, it’s not the issues of a crooked CEO that will bring them down.

The loss of once loyal customers will. 

Heather Taylor

Published 25 July, 2012 by Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor is the Editorial Director for Econsultancy US. You can follow her on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.

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Comments (4)

Michal Matovcik

Michal Matovcik, Online Presence Manager at ESET

Exactly. We have been adding one member to our online marketing team who was originally a customer support guy /security software industry/ so we can cope with our 500 k fans on Facebook. We do not have a customer support forum there but still there are lots of questions which can't be answered by some social media expert governing our fanpage.

I see nice effect on other fans seeing how fast we treat even the minor issues they encounter. Also the other people in the group learn what we have advised and now after a time they are helping us with resolving issues so we have acquired unintentionally a new support team.



about 6 years ago


Ryan Sackett

Firstly, what a great article, but a shame the inspiration had to come
from something so stressful.

I have found most customer experiences to be fragmented and inefficient with many large organisations - an ongoing saga with John Lewis has involved multiple channels, countless staff and an overall feeling that my communications aren't making one bit of difference to how the the business operates.

I have thought a lot about this and wonder if the silo culture we experience moving between business units is a result of the organisation in question being built around a physicallty - solely online businesses seem to be more operationally sound.

By the sound of things Barclays would do well to adopt a double
learning approach whereby there operational insights would be fed back into how (then changing if required) the business actually works rather than stopping at the point of calculating satisfaction scores.

Thanks again for an excellent article


about 6 years ago


Fabio De Bernardi

Social media is another communication channel and sooner or later any business will have to offer proper customer service there.
However, the scary problem here is that too many large companies (I had the same problem with Barclays and other banking and insurance companies) don't have suitable or connected CRM systems, so data is lost or not used. And disservice instead of service for the customer is the rule.
A CRM system is a dead-simple piece of software and organisation work, in 2012 it shouldn't be a barrier. So before Social CRM will save our day, lots of companies need to go back to the drawing board and fix their CRM.

about 6 years ago


George Harling

In fact the organizations must concentrate in transforming their processes in customer-centered processes with adequate objectives, goals and metrics because they are critical to them. In my point of vue the organizations should also concentrate in its relationships with their suppliers and other partners of their business. The effective relationship with the clients begin in the relationship with suppliers and the optimization of their supply chain covering the whole of the value chain. The organization which has process-centered customers has competitive advantages over their competitors.

almost 6 years ago

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