Charter Cable Kills Customer Support Via Social Media

by Mack Collier

I saw Ike Pigott mention on Facebook that Charter Cable was killing customer support via social media, especially Twitter:

“As you may have heard, Charter will no longer have a customer care team tasked, specifically, with resolving matters raised on Social Media…

Monday, December 10, 2012: We will no longer respond to posts that we discover while conducting Charter searches. We will, however, continue to respond to @Charter and @CharterCom mentions until Saturday, December 15th.

Friday, December 14, 2012 (5pm): All the Umatter2Charter accounts (which includes: @Charter, all our individual accounts, as well as the Umatter2Charter Facebook page, Forum accounts, and accounts on Consumer Advocate Sites) will be removed.”

I checked the responses on Twitter to the @Umatter2Charter Twitter account (oh the irony), and saw responses like this:

What I found interesting about the responses to @Umatter2Charter was that none of them were critical of the team on Twitter, in fact many customers stated that the customer support they received on Twitter was the only thing they liked about being a customer!

So why would Charter pull the plug on using social media as a customer service channel?  I am not a Charter customer, but my guess is that Charter wants to use social media as a channel to drive new customers, instead of providing customer service to existing ones.  So they likely see the team’s efforts on Twitter as a ‘waste’, even though as these tweets prove, Charter’s CS efforts on Twitter are actually improving the brand’s image.

But additionally, this likely speaks to the core problem that social media is not a contingency plan for having a shitty product.  This is also one of the points I hit on in Think Like A Rock Star, but the true value of connecting with your customers online isn’t as a sales channel, it’s as a feedback channel.  By closely analyzing feedback from your customers, you can not only get a better understanding of who they are and how you can help them,but your marketing efforts become much more effective and efficient.

Recently, I did a social media strategy audit for a client in the hotel industry.  As part of this, I looked at how their competitors were utilizing social media.   In general, what I found was that on Facebook, the walls of every brand were turned into an area where customers bitched about the service the brand had given them.  They bitched, the brand apologized and gave them an email of someone to contact, and that usually ended the exchange.  Occasionally, the customer would return to point out that the situation still hadn’t been resolved.  I can easily see how an out-of-touch brand could look at this and think ‘No matter what we do, customers will keep complaining, so let’s just kill Twitter and Facebook and spend that money on something else that we know works.  Like advertising!’

If Charter had told you that they were going to stop providing customer service via social media because they didn’t see the value in it, what advice would you have given them?

Todd 'tojosan' Jordan December 11, 2012 at 9:05 am

Yes. Misses the point.
Found though that received significantly better service via the Twitter accounts than ever did on the phone.
Also, the follow up was great.

Now it’s back to calls routed to who knows where.

Mack Collier December 11, 2012 at 9:10 am

Todd I wonder if Charter was tracking deflected calls to its phone support as a cost-savings of the Twitter accounts?

My guess is they were not.

Jennifer Kent December 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Wow. That is just baffling to me. Do you think this is something that could become a trend (brands removing their customer service via social media), particularly with the larger companies in the future?

Mack Collier December 11, 2012 at 6:58 am

Yes I could see other companies dropping social media presences for the same reason. But I think those that are actually measuring the impact that those presences have will see the value.

Those that just threw up a Twitter account and Facebook page because ‘everyone else is doing it’ probably won’t.

Now a question back to you: When companies like Charter ditch social media, is it a sign that the tools don’t work, or a sign that the company didn’t use the tools properly?

Alisa Meredith December 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm

What? This is ridiculous! Not only is phone-only support going to cost them more money directly, but it is also going to cost them customers. I would have asked them to look at customer retention during the time when they WERE engaging in customer support via social media, compared to before. And now, they can compare it to after. Wow.

Mack Collier December 11, 2012 at 6:56 am

I would be VERY interested to learn how they were measuring the success of their efforts on Twitter.

My guess is, they weren’t. So they have no idea the value they were creating via improved brand awareness, customer loyalty, not to mention lowered call center costs via deflected calls to phone support.

This is why it’s imperative to plan out your SM efforts BEFORE you launch them so you know what you are trying to accomplish and know how to measure if your efforts are working or not.

Kelly December 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Whoa! That’s a pretty amazing story considering call centers are beginning to incorporate social media into the work flow and crms. I guess they don’t follow comcast care!

If they don’t have process in-house to scale their social cust/serve efforts I can understand ( but don’t agree :) why they’ve made the choice to revert back to store front and phone support: who in their right mind will take the time to sit on a phone or spend hours in a store waiting for help – they’ve just reduced their “consumer” headache from migrane to no pain.

My guess: there’s a management change in the next 6 months and they pick up where they left off, and/or their customers find a new place to call home. With the message “give us your money and now go away” I’d be running for the hills.

Mack Collier December 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

Hey Kelly! Yeah if they had measured the costs, problem resolution rates, customer satisfaction etc of the efforts on Twitter and have found that they can perform better in all the relevant KPIs by phone vs social media, then it makes sense. But I doubt they have done this, and I think it’s quite telling that none of their customers on Twitter are in favor of this move and in fact many say they prefer their Twitter support to phone support.

Ah well, as Jennifer mentioned, I will be interested to see if we don’t see more brands adopting a similar stance.

Kelly December 12, 2012 at 3:15 am

It’s so upside down. Why would a company intentionally set their clocks back 5 years? I’m really curious.

One thing is for certain: they’re a great brand case study for what not to do!

Robin Colner December 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm

It is equally troubling that Charter did not explain their decision except to say they were able to place their employees within the company. The customers don’t need to know that, they want to know that their needs will be addressed in a timely and efficient manner. There was no attention to modern day “public relations” with a transparent and human approach. This clearly spells “cost-cutting” to me. Perhaps there is a merger in the works or they have a monopoly position in their market.

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