Twitter experiment suggests BT and EE have plenty of customer service woes to fix

26th Feb 2015

When BT announced it would be acquiring the mobile network EE for £12.5bn back in December, many voiced their concerns about how the combined efforts of two of the UK’s most poorly-rated organisations for customer service might stack up.

BT has been on the receiving end of most of the criticism angled at telcos in recent years, having received the unenviable titles that range from being Britain’s most irritating call centre to having the nation’s worst hold music.

But EE was also heavily criticised for charging customers 50p to skip to the front of its call centre queue in August, and despite only being fully-operational under its rebrand guise for two years, has received a number of setbacks prior to BT's acquisition, including being ranked lowest for customer satisfaction among mobile operators by Ofcom.

And now, with the combined forces currently in the midst of fighting off accusations about the merger’s harm to consumer billing made by Which? to the CMA, the pair have received another shared and unwanted accolade, having been rated as the two slowest organisations to respond to customer service queries on Twitter.

In findings from research provider, BDRC Continental’s mystery shopping service, Twystery, that measures how effective brands are at handling customer queries through the social network, it was found that BT and EE were not only the two slowest of the major brands it researched in terms of responding to complaints made on the social network, but they also had two of the lowest response rates.

In a series of experiments that involved tweeting hundreds of brands with test queries, BDRC’s also research found that Lloyds Bank and SW Trains had the fastest response time with an average of 1 hour 5 mins return, followed by Waitrose and Hilton at 1:21, HSBC 1:33 and NatWest 1:42.

EE brought up the rear, with an average response time of 19 hours  and 47 minutes – a full eight hours after the next nearest player, O2 at 11 hours 42 mins and some way behind the average, which was just shy of six hours.

Lloyds, NatWest, Morrisons, Barclays, Sainbury’s and HSBC were ranked as the top brands for customer service on Twitter, with the criteria set at by the combined quality of their response rate, speed of response and the quality of the information returned.

With so many people able to connect to social media 24/7 through their smartphone, tweeting a question or complaint is becoming second nature,” says Tim Barber, Director at BDRC Continental who led the research.

“As people increasingly use Twitter to contact brands hoping for a quick response, it’s important that brands benchmark their performance to see what service consumers are experiencing elsewhere. Twitter offers a great platform to improve customer engagement levels and deliver excellent brand service, but as we’ve seen, some of Britain’s biggest brands are falling behind. In our research, financial services providers and supermarkets can be rightly proud of their performance on Twitter – let’s hope the others can catch up.”

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