Five Tips for Effective Social Customer Service

Social customer serviceAs customer service and social media blend to provide a new platform for providing customer care, Belinda Gannaway looks at the key success factors.

When it comes to the social space, more and more organizations are having conversations that involve some sort of customer care.

Many organizations are already doing a great job delivering customer service in this space. Others are not.

At a recent roundtable hosted by NixonMcInnes we looked at some of the common elements to getting this right.

Here are the top five..

1. Get the Right People in the Right Jobs

The task of providing social customer care tends to land in the customer care department. Customer care reps are given a little extra training and off they go. This can work. But don’t assume it is the answer. Just because someone is great at calls and emails, does not mean they have the right skills for dealing with customers in social spaces.

The key to success is finding people who understand the social space, have the right tone of voice, an unfailing commitment to customer care, a sense of humour and, ultimately, a thick skin. Not all of those are a matter of training. So think carefully before giving anyone the keys to Twitter or Facebook. And think extra hard before outsourcing your precious brand’s conversations to a third party.

2. Set Expectations and Deliver

Setting targets for how and when to respond to comments on social channels is critical to a consistent service. One public transport operator has a target of 80% of tweets answered within 10 minutes and that target will get tighter. Response targets should be dictated by customers’ needs. For example, a bus company needs to respond in real-time as information after the event is useless.

Other brands may arguably have a bit more flexibility, at least for now. But customer expectations will only go up as more people use asocial channels for routine queries. Brands need to be prepared and set targets accordingly.

3. Prepare to Scale

There is a lot of debate around the future of contact management – how much to invest in social customer care and what the cost / savings picture looks like.

One large retail chain is currently investing in scores of additional bodies just to handle social. You may well not need that sort of size of operation right now, but increasing customer demand will force you to scale at some point, so it is better to be prepared if you want to keep customers happy.

And there are cost benefits from doing so. Many companies are reporting inbound calls dropping as a result of investing in social as customers switch to social from the phone when they have a problem. But such savings do need upfront investment. So be prepared to invest properly in social to see a significant impact on call reduction and reap the benefit of the upfront costs of training, creating social processes, etc. And do measure the results.

4. A Mandate for Change

There are other sizeable benefits for brands who invest in social customer care. But many are being missed. I’m talking about the insight that can be gleaned from social conversations. Listening to social buzz is a great way to spot a problem early and unearth ideas for product and service development.

But it’s not just a lack of listening that is limiting the benefits brands can get from investing in social. There is also a problem feeding insights back into organizations. The structures and processes simply don’t exist to allow this to happen in many cases.

When customers complain by letter, email or phone there are processes for logging and monitoring them. But what when something isn’t a complaint, merely a suggestion or a comment? How many customer care reps are empowered to monitor this and feed such insights into the right place in the organization? And how many departments act on these insights?

Creating the channels to share social insight is the first step. But it is equally important to ensure those insights are routinely considered by the right people and acted on where possible.

5. Prepare for the Worst

When a crisis strikes, the crisis comms plan comes into force. That often means adding temporary headcount to the customer care centre. But the social space gives crises a new dimension. So don’t rely on existing plans.

Stress test plans and your team in these roles. Explore how and where the social space will add a new dimension to the challenges that could beset your brand and how you will cope with a crisis in the middle of the night or at a weekend. Who’s got the keys and are they all an equally safe pair of hands?

Many organizations are investing in simulation exercises to understand their extended crisis team’s competencies. And it is worth doing this on a regular basis to ensure skills are fresh.

About the Author

Belinda GannawayBelinda Gannaway is a Consultant at NixonMcInnes, a social business consultancy that helps organizations have better conversations with the people that matter to them. Twitter: @contentqueen, @nixonmcinnes.

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