Big Data Summit 2014: eBay, TfL and others use social analytics to improve customer service

By Sooraj Shah
28 Mar 2014 View Comments

Major organisations in various industries, including e-commerce giant eBay and Transport for London (TfL), are using social media analytics to better understand their customers and to improve their services.

Lauren Sager Weinstein, TfL's customer experience head of analytics, told delegates at Computing's Big Data Summit that TfL's customer research team has started to use social media analytics software.

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She said that the organisation monitors all social feeds for any information on all modes of public transport. At times, she said that social media has enabled TfL to realise that while its service information often states that there are severe delays on certain lines, there isn't actually any delay at all - and vice versa.

"We've tried to calibrate this information to make sure our service information is more useful to passengers," she said.

Meanwhile, the CIO of Northumbrian Water, James Robbins, explained that Twitter was its main social channel.

"We have a two-way communication approach on Twitter where we are picking up indirect comments from the network to do with flooding and leakage, for example, and we also engage directly with customers to ask whether they would recommend us if they had the choice," he said.

"However, we also realise that our user base is not prolific on Twitter; a lot of them are voyeurs, not communicators," he added.

Robbins stated that sentiment analysis "doesn't cost a lot", and that utilities companies are now being asked to measure and capture data from channels, such as social and, more importantly, to act on that data - with penalties being handed out for organisations that don't. 

Rashpal Kullar, head of ICT architecture strategy and compliance at engineering company The Hyde Group, said that his organisation also uses social media analytics as a key part of customer service. He said that the use of such data was "a good business case as well".

Meanwhile, e-commerce giant eBay also monitors social media to gauge what its buyers think of products, according to the company's head of EU analytics, Davide Cervellin.

"As we try to sell things to buyers, we use our analytics to try to engage with buyers in a proactive manner. In terms of being reactive, we do sentiment analysis to see if [buyers] like what we sell," he said.

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