There is no shortage of opportunity for self-reflection, especially when (like myself) you are slowly creeping toward the end of your 20’s or 30’s or 40’s or any decade.

From time to time, I like to step back, take a personal inventory and identify progress. Where was I this time last year? What’s new? What’s different? What’s better? What’s worse? I try to ask myself these questions consistently. It’s a healthy exercise (as far as I know) and one that I advocate for, not only personally but, with a broader scope.

While the individual should always seek self-betterment, why should we not expect the same from companies? From those who provide us with day-to-day services in exchange for our hard earned cash?

There is no shortage of bad publicity around the telecom and ISP industry. Every couple of weeks it seems that we hear another story of outrageously (almost humorously) bad customer service from one of the big name providers. Then, without fail, we see a new dedication to more service, better service. But, after a couple of weeks another customer service scandal goes public and the spotlight is on inaction.

So, in the words of Canada’s sweetheart, Justin Bieber, “Is it too late now to say sorry?” And, follow up question, “How do we fix it in an impactful and cost effective way?”

The answer is social customer service.

By the numbers, among 17 social customer service channels representing the most recognizable telecom companies:

  • The average channel has 100,514 followers on Twitter
  • Each of those channels receives an average of 432 @mentions a day
  • These brands replied 336 times

By these metrics, nearly 25% of all questions, comment, and complaints with direct @mentions go ignored.

Although enlightening, these figures fail to spell out the true power of social media customer service. It is evident that brands must reply to their customers, especially those who have legitimate service issues. But how do the brands actually improve their service while taking steps to proactively address the underlying issue?

This is how we learn and grow

Insight is necessary to learn, knowledge is fundamental to effective change. The telecom giants in all of their glory and marketing power need to mean it when they apologize and learn from their mistakes and missteps. This does not only refer to the long term but also to the immediate. Take notice of the issues that are coming in, not only those which are directly @mentioned but the full breadth of the social channel. Identify the most pressing issues, and take proactive steps to solve and inform to stem the influx of issues.

This is where intention meets technology

Social media engagement at a scale suitable for the nation’s telecom giants demands more than manpower (and womanpower), it requires organization, segmenting, and the ability to recognize trends as they are happening in-the-moment.

One year ago, the people at Sprint made a commitment to realize a Social First approach to customer service. They realized that someone in the industry was going to need to lead the way on utilizing the social channel a primary source of customer service.

Upon adopting a dedicated tool for social customer service, Sprint was able to provide 24/7 social service across five channels. Their team of over 350 agents doubled the number of replies they sent within 15 minutes of receiving a comment, and halved their SLA throughout a 24 hour volume spike of over 15,000 messages.

This is what the industry needs as a whole to regain the trust of the customer. The experience of getting customer service needs to be as easy, as the service is helpful. It needs absolute dedication by the company, and the utilization of tools that facilitate and empower social conversation.

Is it too late to say sorry? Not at all, but this time the telecom industry has to mean it, and then actually fix the problem, and social is a great first step forward.