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Twitter Is Your New Healthcare Customer Service Line

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Have a great day—and don’t forget to @ us when you tell your 235 followers how much we suck!

The fact that many brands use Twitter for customer service is nothing new; we covered a few of the best feeds last year, and many of them were created strictly to engage with customers. If you check out our listicle you’ll notice that most of the ones we included were consumer brands like Nike, Xbox, Amazon, etc.

But today ProPublica posted a must-read story on how Twitter became the new go-to customer service tool for the healthcare industry—and we thought it worthy of debate.

You’ve probably heard quite a bit about frustrations experienced by consumers trying to sign up for insurance plans via the new exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare); based on the examples given, it would seem that both journalists and members of the public at large are having more luck contacting their providers on Twitter than over the phone.

As we all know, healthcare delivery tends to lag behind other sectors, and human error accounts for untold hours wasted waiting on the line. Part of the current challenges facing insurers may be attributed to the huge jump in enrollment, but they’re approaching a very old problem in a new-ish way. Here are some given examples:

Note the nine-minute response time.

While most of the responses include “email us at” messages, some like the one above call for DMs from consumers. Some insurers like Aetna have also followed Nike and created their own customer service feeds:

Covered California, the official feed of the California exchange, already has more than 26,000 followers on Twitter alone; it also maintains Facebook and even Instagram accounts because why not?

Our question: how much of this dramatic increase in response time on Twitter may be attributed to PR or, at the very least, PR sensibilities?

When customers make complaints on social they’re far more likely to go viral and shine an unwanted spotlight on a given company’s reputation; no amount of hair-pulling, wall punching or complaining to one’s dog about unbearable hold music can do the same.

What do we think? Will social media managers become the new customer service reps? Have we already made that jump?

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