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Customer Care in the Smart Phone Era

Customer on phone with customer care agent

In an era of tweets and text messages, real-time communication has changed the way people interact with one another. But does this mean retailers should also follow suit and change the way they interact with consumers? Several major companies including Comcast, Verizon, and Southwest Airlines, have received industry praise for their customer care on Twitter, but is social media really the future of customer care?

According to a recent study from eMarketer, approximately 47.6% of adults in the U.S. will be active on Facebook (logging in at least once per month) and 11.4% will be active on Twitter by 2013. While Facebook growth is predicted to slow down to single digits over the next few years, Twitter is poised to continue to see double digit growth in the same time span which should only lead to an increase in the amount of time people spend online. With the growth of social media providing more customers with real-time responses to their questions and problems it makes me wonder – can social media ever replace more traditional methods such as the telephone call?

Old telephone

For further insight, I asked our Senior Call Center Manager here at PFSweb a few questions about how he feels the industry is changing as it moves forward…

Do you think new customer care methods (social media, live chat, etc.) will one day replace the “phone call” when a customer has a need or concern?

Not necessarily, I don’t think the “phone call” will ever be replaced. While other methods may be better for some, high touch customers want a live person that they can trust, hear, and hold accountable by connecting with them over the phone.

What are the benefits and disadvantages to both new and old customer care services?

New customer care services, such as social media, allow for around the clock support at a minimal cost but it can lack the personal touch and immediacy of a phone call. A service such as live chat is a nice medium between the two but may cater toward a more “tech-savvy” customer base. 

How can a retailer best integrate an array of customer care strategies into one unifying plan?

Retailers, in my opinion, should first look at understanding their target audience and the services that are available to them. They should ask themselves how their customers attempt to communicate with them and then align themselves with a customer care solution that can cover all of these forms of communication.

What customer care trends do you think retailers should expect to occur over the next 5 years?

Retailers are very aware of social media, both the good and the bad that can come from it, and this will only be amplified over the next 5 years. I also see retailers becoming very focused on “over-servicing” their customers to create brand loyalty. Using “personal shoppers” online and over the phone to help customers is something retailers may focus on to provide that high touch experience in the future.

Certainly social media is a topic of interest with retailers given its emergence over the past few years but it appears as if it is still unable to fully replicate traditional methods for their immediacy and level of personalization.

Although customer care via social media and other new customer care services certainly should not be ignored moving forward, the demand for more traditional customer care methods are certainly present and will continue to be present. Some people may not want to wait for replies on Facebook or Twitter regarding urgent matters and sometimes customer concerns can be too complex and/or time consuming to explain in live chat. Don’t get me wrong – these new customer care services are certainly valuable and have their place – but similar to what Adrian said, regardless of the array of customer care services available it’s still fundamental to hire the right people and to provide customer care agents with the proper tools and training to assist customers.


  • Online channels will absolutely replace phone some day. For some verticals this may happen in just a few years. Visiting your brand’s website or Facebook page, the customer is already connected to your company via an IP-based link that can handle text, images, voice and video. Why ignore that and make them pick an ordinary phone or cellphone, that is capable of voice only?

    • mattbrownPFS

      Great point Vadim and I think more and more companies are starting to agree with you as there has been a huge increase in online customer care over the past few years. Thanks for the comment!