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Bian Salins is Head of Social Media Innovation within BT Customer Service, and manages BT's social media channels. 

Bian will be speaking at Econsultancy's JUMP event on October 13, about her experiences managing customer service through social media. I've been asking Bian about BT's use of Twitter for customer service... 

How many customers choose to use Twitter to get in touch with BT? 

We deal with approximately 4,000 unique customers a month. The percentage of customers varies because we effectively scrape Twitter to find people needing our help and reach out to them. 

Do you actively monitor and offer to help customers, or wait for them to message you? 

We wanted to reach out to people who needed help with our products and services so we actively monitor for queries across Twitter as well as respond to people who message us @BTCare. 

How many people are managing the BTcare account? 

We have six full time employees who offer service via our Twitter channel. However, the use of and quality of the channel is down to my social media team. 

Where does the Twitter / customer service function sit within the company – is it connected to online or the call centre team? 

Historically, because our social media strategy started out as a service led one, the BTCare team sit as part of our Digital Care operation within BT Customer Service which consists of agents who are trained in online service from live chat to social media.

However, to ensure that we're working efficiently and effectively, we work closely with our virtual teams across Online, Product, PR, BT Innovate and Design, Operations and Media. 

What tools are you using to help manage customer conversations via Twitter? 

We use our own BT Designed/owned monitoring tool BT Debatescape to proactively search for and manage conversations. 

How do you scale customer service on social media? 

Scalability is a sensitive topic and a challenge for anyone participating in social media. On the one hand, you want your social media efforts to be benefit led and cost effective but on the other hand, being able to forecast volume is an unknown. In my view, there are two things that allow you to scale... 

  • Learning from previous trends (tracking and analysing impact from previous activity) to gauge impact on new activity.
  • Flexibility and fluidity in resource modelling. By that I mean, the ability to identify early trends and pull in required resource to help you through the peaks in volume. 

What are the major limitations in conducting customer service on Twitter? 

A couple of things…. For one, dependence on third party platforms. For example, if Twitter is down, there's nothing we can do about it, or if they change their API, then we have to adapt our own tool to allow our service to continue.

Apart from that, there's the obvious 140 character limit which limits the platform in terms of customer service. Wherever possible, we try to answer queries though self help links or video but for more complex queries and for security reasons, we do route the conversation into email.  

Can you track customers as they switch between channels e.g. can call centre staff pick up where the Twitter conversation left off? 

Because our team is in essence a converged/multiskilled call centre team - we are able to manage the end to end experience for the customer. As use of this channel grows however, we may look at alternative ways of resourcing.

How are you measuring the success of Twitter engagement? 

Success metrics really comes down to individual strategy. For us it's about customer satisfaction and brand advocacy. We measure this through surveys, positive mentions and lists. We've also worked out a cost comparison against the voice channel which proves it is a more cost effective channel.

The use of Twitter seems to have improved brand reputation - how do you account for that?

As mentioned previously, we track this through positive mentions, blog posts, lists and satisfaction. We also recognise success from nominations for awards and other such activity. 

Graham Charlton

Published 28 September, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (3)


Ef Rodriguez

I like the bit about flexibility and fluidity. Dead-on.

about 6 years ago


Bian Salins

hi Ef - thanks for you comment on my interview above. Be good to know experiences from other folk too... the only way we'll progress is if we share learning. B

about 6 years ago



For people interested to follow companies offering customer service on Twitter (including BT which was one of the first we identified), we have set up a dedicated Twitter account @VGSservice . Please go and check it out and do not hesitate to suggest other companies you may have noticed which offer genuine customer service via Twitter. Let us encourage the promotion of good customer service!

about 6 years ago

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