Operators, it’s time for 24/7 Twitter service please

Screen shot 2011 07 04 at 23 19 00

I took the above Instagr.am photo the other day when I was in Baltimore waiting to hop on a plane back to London. I obviously arsed around selecting all manner of different silly filters before deciding the one above was most appropriate. Why, I don’t know. That’s instagr.am for you.

I snapped the photo as I wanted to remember Delta. The photo is the top corner of a Delta Airlines advertisement in the current Fast Company magazine. The advert points out that Delta now has a ‘new way to listen’ which ‘means a new way to help’. Yup. Delta is now on Twitter.

By now, we all know what that means: An instant (and usually highly informed) response mechanism.

Taking a look at Delta’s Twitter account right now, you can see they’re very busy already responding to customers.

Indeed I’d go so far to assume that tweeting Delta will get you a quicker response than phoning them — for most standard enquiries.

Delta’s gone somewhat further than most companies on Twitter, though. They’ve gone 24/7.

That’s right — you can tweet them anytime.

Good.

Brilliant, actually.

Which brings me to Vodafone. The company has long been leading the way when it comes to ‘e’ stuff — their e-forum team are second-to-none and their response times (and resolution rates) on Twitter are legendary. It took other operators months and quarters to even get to grips with the whole concept of actually talking with their customers.

I remember having a bet with Ben Smith over at Wireless Worker about whether T-Mobile’s rather ‘green’ Twitter account would engage in any banter whatsoever with him. The team running it instructed the person-on-the-keyboard to ignore all messages except those specifically relating to a T-Mobile issue. Ben tried to engage — you know, say hello, ask them how their day was going and so on. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I bet him a meal at Claridges if he could get a response out of them.

Vodafone, Three, Orange, o2 — they’d all banter with you. Not excessively, mind you, but you know, enough to say hello. T-Mobile did the social media equivalent of sitting in the corner with a face like thunder for months on end. Thankfully they have lightened up nowadays.

My problem, though, is that to my knowledge, no mobile operator in the UK runs a 24/7 Twitter account. This is an arse for me. I routinely ask @VodafoneUK questions during the day — sometimes questions that inform or related to the content here on MIR — and I always get a prompt and helpful answer. This facility stops at 5pm. Or is it 6pm? I can’t quite remember.

Actually I just looked.

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So it’s 11pm now, and that tweet was 3 hours ago… so Vodafone does 8am-8pm daily.

That’s reasonable. It’s better than I expected actually.

I’m pretty sure ThreeUK doesn’t do that. Let’s have a look:

Screen shot 2011 07 04 at 23 33 41

Ooof! SIX hours ago? Come on Johanna!  What’s that.. it’s 11pm now, minus 6… ThreeUK stops Twitter service at FIVE pm? (Although after a quick scan of their feed, I’m pleased to see, incidentally, that they do recommend Hullomail). Come on Three! What’s going on!

Let’s look at o2/Telefonica, what are they doing?

Screen shot 2011 07 04 at 23 36 07

Well it looks like they were still going at 10pm. Impressive.

How about T-Mobile?

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Well there you go. T-Mobile were live until 6pm. That’s an hour better than Three.

What about Orange?

Screen shot 2011 07 04 at 23 39 45

Unfortunately the team at Orange didn’t sign-out, although the fact their last message was 6 hours ago leads me to assume they’re doing similar hours to ThreeUK.

Well then.

Deary me.

It’s not good news, operators.

I think the absolute minimum should be 8am ’til 8pm. I think ‘good’ would be 8am until 10pm. Ideal would be 24/7. Surely it can’t be that expensive, given the value you’ll be able to add to folk?

Ok.

So I suspect that most British people will NEVER tweet their mobile operator beyond, say, what, midnight… I’m sure there are some statistics that each operator could show in this regard. But come on — folk are generally awake and operational until 10pm. Why not extend service to those hours? You might even have time to do a bit of brand building through some back-and-forth chats with customers. The sort of interaction that’s difficult to do at midday when there are hundreds of enquiries flying in.

And finally… let’s talk days. Monday to Friday doesn’t cut it, folks. Weekends too, please.

Is this too much to ask?

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  • O2

    Hey Ewan

    Great post! We
    agree with you – we’ve been active till ten for some time now as we based our
    hours on when we saw people tweeting at us. The times we’re open mean that we
    have the opportunity to respond to most comments about O2 shortly after they’re
    made which is what people have come to expect from us. We’re not open 24/7 yet
    - our Social Media Team need to sleep at some point (sadly) – but we are now
    responding on the weekends to make sure we answer even more tweets. We’re not
    just on Twitter though – we’re in a few other spaces too. We’ve even got
    our own ‘about us’ page now at http://www.O2.co.uk/socialmedia. 

    We’re big fans of
    Social Media and the possibilities it offers, so watch out for more from us in
    the near future. And probably a good job you didn’t bet Ben we wouldn’t banter
    with him – anyone who wears suits that much deserves a good bantering every now
    and again. Make mine a McDonalds anyway…

    Speak to you soon

    Chris – O2 Social
    Media Team

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Chris thank you for taking the time to respond. I’m pleased to hear you’re
    operating at the weekend too — and engaging in a bit of banter too! I think
    that’s important!

  • Guest

    People are not robots. Believe it or not, people who do support on these accounts actually need a break at some point. 

    Why not ring the call centre if its out of hours for the Twitter account?

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Heh. I wasn’t suggesting people are robots. I’m suggesting that operators
    need to provision more people :)

  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    Why provide service by phone 24 x7 and service by social media 8 x 5? Why not have the same people do both?

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Usually because they don’t have access to the same ‘systems’? Or it’s a
    different company running the call centre?

  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    So no *good* reasons then? ;-)

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Nothing defendable I don’t think

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    I don’t think we’re too far away from 24/7 if I’m honest, but remember that not all customer service lines are 24/7. The original (lowest rung of the ladder) call interceptor maybe, but to get through to someone who can actually fix something? Well, that’s a next day thing (normally).

    What impresses me more is that these operators actually give their hours in their bio – or at least, they used to. Having a quick check shows that only TMO and Orange are up front about when they will reply…

    Forget 24/7, some Twitter CS best practices would be better please!

    While I’m at it, what about the personal touch?

    Orange: sign off tweets, but there’s no ‘key’ on the background (see VF for best practice).
    Three: have a key, but don’t sign off tweets…
    TMO & o2: You speak directly to ‘the brand’, but don’t know ‘who’.
    Vodafone: leading the way here…

    I like the fact the ^initial or ^name format is (kind of) adhered to across the Twittersphere, seeing more operators adopt this model would help customers track their comms MUCH easier.

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley
  • Tom Rushton

    Thanks for the support Ewan – always appreciated! The question over 24/7 Twitter support for customers is an interesting one, especially given the speed with which customers can contact us. That said, demand for Twitter support is far lower overnight which is why we run our service from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week at the moment. We run our online support in-house through our Web Relations team in sunny Stoke-on-Trent and they handle all queries across Twitter, Facebook and the eForum, whether it’s the online interaction or a resulting email or phone conversation (we don’t hand our queries over to other channels). This gives our customers a consistent experience during the time when they need us the most. We monitor when and where our customers need us, with a view to building on what we already offer in the future, so let’s see what happens. It’s also worth highlighting that the eForum is manned 24/7, 365 days a year if customers need additional online support they can always come and see us there :) Speak soon,Tom RushtonWeb Relations TeamVodafone UK

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    A comprehensive perspective, Tom! Very good indeed. Your point about the eForum being manned 24/7 is well-made. That’s good to know. 8-til-8 appears to be industry-leading!

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