The most successful brands utilising social customer service are the ones that are not only quick to respond, but also genuinely helpful and clearly written by a human.

This is relatively easy in retail, where it’s more acceptable to adopt a relaxed, fun tone of voice, but how difficult is it for a financial services brand to not only maintain an efficient customer service channel that fully complies with banking regulations but is also human?

Late last year I investigated how 16 retail banks handle social customer service and it was encouraging to find that 100% of all the banks I contacted responded within 90 minutes and half of those were under 15 minutes, and most in a personal friendly manner.

In fact it seems that the retail banking industry seems to be leading the way with social customer service. 

Only a handful need to make small changes to their profiles and although some could have used a touch more personality, it was great to see such great commitment to social customer service from one of the more serious sectors.

Let’s see how another area of the finance industry compares. Here we’ll be taking a look at a handful of insurance companies and seeing how effective their social customer service strategy is in the UK.

Criteria

Here I’ll be looking out for the following criteria…

  • Either operating a specific Twitter help channel, separate from the main account but still linked to in the main account’s description, or stating explicitly that the main account is there to help. If you’re not providing customer service on your social networks then you’re not giving your customers what they want, where they want it.
  • Responding quickly.  72% of customers expect complaints answered in one hour. If companies don’t respond within the one hour time frame, 38% of people feel more negatively towards the brand.
  • Answering questions precisely and accurately, through to a satisfactory conclusion.
  • Being human. Using your real name behind the Twitter handle to address the customer, and signing off your tweet with your real name makes people feel more comfortable.
  • Not moving customers to a different channel unnecessarily. It is of course necessary to move customers to a more secure private channel if the customer service agent requires sensitive information, but enquiries should be resolved on the same channel where possible. 
  • Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Being clear about operating hours in the Twitter description.

On with the investigation…

Allianz

Social customer service? Yes, although it doesn’t state this anywhere in its description nor does it operate a separate customer servce channel.

Quick response? Most replies are sent within an hour,  although many are sent hours after or the day after. Particularly if the customer tweet was sent closer to 5:30pm.

Accurate help? I find replies like this difficult to take seriously…

Also this is worryingly unhelpful…

Not even an offer of help via DM, email or live-chat?

But the customer service agent doesn’t just share the right phone number here and now, making the customer work harder for their enquiry.

There are many examples of this, where customer service is delivered to a point, but the non-joined up way the customer service teams are organized has a negative effect on the customer experience.

Being human? Most tweets are friendly and with personalisation.

End-to-end resolution? Not particularly, for the majority of the time customers are encouraged to DM, email or phone a different team for help. 

24/7 operation? No, from what I can gather it operates between 9:30am-5:30pm and not at the weekends.

Operating hours? These aren’t stated in the description, nor do they send a tweet in the morning saying when they’re available till.

Aviva

Social customer service? Yes, the separate help channel is linked from the main account.

Quick response? Very. Most replies arrive in fifteen minutes, sometimes with three minutes and only occasionally taking as long as 30 mins, which is still fine.

Accurate help? Yes, even to enquiries where the customer is thinking of leaving.

Or to customers who are less than polite.

This is a good example of responding in a positive and surprising way to a slightly indirect mention.

Being human? Very warm and human responses…

Also this is a great touch having pictures of the team within the header image.

End-to-end resolution? Largely yes, and even when a customer is asked to move to a different channel it seems as if the same social customer service agent will still be able to take care of things to ensure a linear service.

24/7 operation? Unfortunately no, but it does operate at the weekend.

Operating hours? The operating hours are clearly stated in the description, and they’re fairly generous.

AXA

Social customer service? Yes, it operates from the main account.

Quick response? Unfortunately no. Too often replies arrive more than an hour later, and occasionally not till the next day. The account doesn’t seem to be responding to that many tweets, so it can’t really be because they’re swamped with enquiries.

Accurate help? It’s difficult to tell as most enquiries are immediately taken to DM. A shame as being able to publically deliver good customer service is great for reputation.

Being human? Yes, tweets are friendly and personalised.

End-to-end resolution? Customers are too often asked to adopt a different channel, normally DM but occasionally telephone, almost by rote

24/7 operation? Unfortunately no, and help shuts at 5pm and isn’t available at weekends.

Operating hours? These are clearly stated, along with an emergency contact link.

Legal & General

Legal & General runs a UK Twitter account, as well as a business one, and enquiries are replied to, but it can’t be said that the insurer actually carries out social customer care.

Most replies to enquiries here result in the same response and very often a day or two later.

At the very least someone is replying eventually, and the email address seems to go directly to the social team so there may well be end-to-end care delivered away from Twitter.

However with many of these enquiries arriving every day it’s clear Legal & General’s customers are seeking help on Twitter. 

Zurich 

Social customer service? Yes, it operates from the main account.

Quick response? Tweets are responded to fairly quickly, often within 30 minutes, but if tweet late on a Friday don’t expect a response till Monday.

Accurate help? It’s difficult to tell as most enquiries are immediately taken to DM.

Being human? Yes they are a friendly bunch, with lots of personality and charm.

End-to-end resolution? Again, it’s difficult to tell as its often taken offline, but when email addresses are proffered they are either direct to the social team members.

24/7 operation? Unfortunately no, and help shuts at 5pm and isn’t available at weekends.

Operating hours? These are clearly stated in the description.

Further reading:

For more on social customer service from the blog…