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Tesco achieves global leadership in using social media to help customers

Tesco’s innovative social media strategy puts customer service at the heart of every interaction, a shrewd move that has resulted in the retailing giant being named best in the world for social customer care.

A recent survey of the Top 10 Twitter brands by social analytics experts Socialbakers, named Tesco as the leading global brand, ahead of Vodafone UK and O2. It found that: 

Despite having almost 80,000 followers, the social media team responsible for @UKTesco, answered 65% of user questions in an average of 81 minutes in the first quarter of 2012- a world-beating performance

Tesco has already bettered this - of the 7,500 Tweets it gets every week, some 60% require a response and it now responds to 93% of those within an hour and 86% within just 43 minutes.

Top Twitter brand is not the only accolade Tesco has won for its social media prowess, last year it also won the CCA Excellence Award for Best Use of Social Media only 13 months after launching its social media response team.

The importance Tesco places on engaging positively with customers via social media comes directly from the top of the business - CEO Philip Clarke personally intervened to ensure the company put in place an appropriate social media strategy and also developed the requisite staff competencies and skills. It meant that when it came to forming a dedicated social media team, there was no need to make a separate business case because the board ‘got it’ and were fully behind the plan.


Tesco’s approach to form a special unit comprising experienced customer service agents who also possess strong social media skills, was a relatively unusual one as many companies regard social media as the domain of the press office or marketing team and therefore have little engagement with customer contact operations.


The social media unit is housed in Tesco’s Cardiff contact centre and headed by Peter Tromans, Social Media Operations Manager. The decision to site the social media team in the contact centre signalled Tesco’s strong belief in a need for joined-up thinking on customer care, regardless of the channel -  an approach that offers valuable lessons to other organisations grappling with the complexities of social media.

Tromans is in charge of 30 people split into 3 teams, with two team leaders who are  responsible for responses via social media channels from 0700  to 2300 hours, with reduced hours on a Sunday, with downtime covered by an e-moderation company in case of situations which require an urgent response.

According to Ian Naylor, Customer Service Centres Director for Tesco Stores, social media is seen as primarily as a customer service channel, although often customers address corporate issues via Facebook or Twitter. In these instances Tesco can Tweet links to more formal corporate statements or policy documents.

Tesco uses different profiles for different purposes including Tesco Offers for latest deals coupons and Clubcard offers; Tesco Real Food where followers can share recipes etc; Tesco Plc the corporate Twitter account; and Customer Care where the company responds to an array of customer comments and enquiries.  Tesco Offers is particularly popular with 91,000 followers for @uktescoofers and Tesco also has 1.2 million Facebook fans and attracts around 12,000 posts or comments a week.

Adopting the right tone

Tesco recognises the importance of adopting the right conversational tone via Twitter and Facebook and its customer service social media team use a natural and personal chatty style and are literally on first name terms with many customers. Follow the Tweets and you can see them telling a customer on which aisle he can find his favourite biscuits in his local store - the answer is delivered as naturally and speedily and with as much warmth as if he had tapped on the shoulder of a staff member in store.

Tesco uses a Sentiment Tracker  to monitor positive and negative comments which is fed back into the business. Social media also enables issues and complaints to be identified faster, giving the business an opportunity to rectify problems before they become bigger issues. Tromans says resolving an issue “in the moment” has a huge impact.

Rather than being restricted to passively responding, Tesco proactively Tweets and fosters customer relationships - perhaps not surprisingly, as a result more positive feedback and compliments are received via social media than other channels.

The key objectives of the team are to deliver great customer service, to drive action through customer insight, to build customer advocacy, and to provide a contemporary image. On current evidence, the team looks to be delivering on all fronts.