Social media could soften impact of negative word of mouth

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Social media may have the ability to ease negative word-of-mouth impact, according to a leader in customer experience management solutions.

In its annual Call Center Satisfaction Index, CFI Group noted a counter-intuitive impact of social media commentary and traditional complaining when observing the increased use of social media to comment on the call center experience. What's more, CFI Group said, the number of positive experiences and positive posts seemed to be outweigh the negative word-of-mouth in volume, despite the fact that a bad experience may increase the odds that someone will tell others. In 2011, CFI found that more than one-quarter of respondents (27%) had tried to resolve their issues elsewhere prior to resorting to working with the call center. The primary alternate channel was the Web.

"What we are seeing is that, if you have a bad experience, you post it once on Facebook for all to see and then you’re done with it," said Terry Redding, director of development and delivery for CFI Group. "By the same token, we are seeing good experiences posted in the same way. In fact, we've observed that positive comments generally outweigh negative ones almost as a rule.

"This is the first year since we’ve fielded that study that we’ve seen a decrease in overall score on the private sector side," Redding added. "We feel the drop is due to an increasing number of easier calls being offloaded to self-service channels like the Web, leaving the more complex cases going to the call centers."

Additional findings of the 2011 index included:

  • On the private-sector side, property and casualty insurance call centers led all sectors at 80, in spite of a one-point drop from last year;

  • Health insurance call centers experienced the largest gain of four points at 75. The strong showing by insurance companies bodes well for an industry faced with change and increased competition;

  • Personal computer call centers were the only other group that experienced an improvement in their score, an increase of just two points from 73 to 75;

  • On the government side, the Veterans Affairs agency topped the list with an overall score of 72, while the Social Security Administration and Department of Education followed at 70;

  • There remains a significant gap in satisfaction between onshore versus offshore centers; and

  • Call centers that can provide first-call-resolution and minimize call transfers score much higher. This suggests that technology that empowers call representatives may be a good investment, CFI Group said.