A report on the performance of telecom players on social media by business intelligence firm Simplify360 has named Airtel as the best performer due to its high social media buzz and high activity on Twitter. The report was compiled by looking at data from Twitter and Facebook for the month of March. In all, 12 telecom companies were tracked for the study.
Airtel was followed by Vodafone and Idea Cellular respectively. Airtel scored an amazing buzz score of 92. The operator was the most mentioned telecom brand in March with more than 34,000 mentions on social media platforms. In comparison, Vodafone, which is placed second, had just 10,965 mentions.
However Vodafone can take some heart from the numbers. The operator was adjudged the top performer on Twitter, with a score of 92.
In terms of Facebook, Idea and Aircel had the ideal combination of high number of fans as well as great engagement, said the report. MTS, had lesser fans than these two but a very high engagement count too, with nearly 4.2 per cent of the fan base having interacted with the brand on Facebook during March. On the other hand, Tata Indicom, which has the most number of fans (around 14,00,000 and accounting for nearly 37per cent of the total fan base) of the 12 operators studied, could engage with only 0.2per cent of its total fan base.
“Three major groups can be observed on Twitter - those with high mentions but less followers, those having high number of followers but less mentions and those who are low on both the parameters,” stated the report. An example of the first category is Reliance Communication, while Airtel and Tata DoCoMo are examples of the third category. Airtel was the most mentioned brand with more than 9,600 mentions, while Idea Cellular came second with more than 7,500 mentions. However, it was Vodafone which had the ideal mix of high followers, along with mentions (approximately 9,600 mentions and 2,00,000 followers).
In terms of overall buzz, Simplify360’s study found that three brands - Airtel, Vodafone and Idea constitute nearly 60 per cent of the buzz. However, Airtel is the clear leader accounting for 37 per cent of social media buzz.
Of course, another way of looking at the numbers is that most of the mentions and comments could be consumer complaints or queries. Handling customer queries on social media platforms effectively and in a way that resonates with customers continues to be the Holy Grail for telecom operators. From unresponsiveness to impersonal automated messaging that sometimes is completely out of context, consumer complaints are far too many to enumerate.
Preetham Venkky, Digital Expert and Business Head, KRDS, said, “It is an infrastructure problem. Telecom operators haven’t been able to get their operating structure to evolve with social media. They are still using a 3-stage process for answering queries where many of the questions can be answered via Natural Language Processing (NLP).” He gave the example of Idea, who were able to reduce their response time by nearly 30 per cent by changing their process. When asked what the ideal response time should be, Venkky opined that operators should aim to take a specific actionable response within 45 minutes.
Sanjay Mehta, Co-CEO, Social Wavelength is a little more charitable. He points out that telecom operators deal with very large numbers, which makes it difficult for them to respond to every consumer quickly. Giving the example of a telecom client, Mehta claimed that by streamlining its query solving process, it was able to bring down closure time to two hours. However, he suggested that one thing that telecom operators need to do is to be more transparent with their consumers. “If you cannot reply to a query or a complaint for two hours, inform them. Keep the consumer in the loop and assure them that you are working on it. Consumers need to have clarity on the status of their query,” he said.
Chetan Asher, CEO, Tonic Media also agrees that negative comments on social media are one of the biggest challenges for telecom operators. However, according to him, it is just something that they have to live with. “Most service-oriented companies on social media tend to give out standard, automated responses, which further annoys the customer. Maybe what is needed is better integration between customer service, marketing and social media.” He gives the example of a number of US airlines who managed to channelize negative comments and query resolutions separately to make the process more effective. “Maybe the operators can start a separate Twitter handle to separate tabs on their Facebook page just to handle complaints and queries,” he suggests. There is a precedent for this as many global IT companies have separate Twitter handles just to take care of complaints. However, Asher stated, operators need to be prepared that by doing this they will open up the floodgates.