Introduction

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Customer service is undergoing a major evolution, with online communication moving away from private, anonymous, one-to-one channels toward public one-to-many channels that are mobile, social, and attached to real identity. In brief, social media is changing the entire business of customer service, posing great challenges and presenting new opportunities for brands. In the midst of this seismic shift, though, it’s important to remember that the core principles of great customer service still apply.

Quality customer service — regardless of channel — relies on a meaningful dialogue between brands and their customers. That being said, the growing preference for social media as a preferred channel requires your organization to re-think its customer service strategy. You need to adopt a Social First approach.

Multi-channel communication and customer expectations

Social media has already reached a high level of maturity as a communication channel. People have blended it into their lives alongside other technologies and they expect brands to follow suit. Increasingly, inbound customer service inquiries start on social (“Where is my X?”), move to a private channel (details of X given) and then finish back where they began (“Thanks for delivering my X!”).

Shifting ownership of social

Perhaps the most important change social media has brought to customer service is the complete reversal of the traditional channel ownership model. Social media is the first channel created and controlled by customers. It is also the first to be implemented by customers with the expectation that brands will adopt it, rather than the other way around.

At the corporate level, the ownership of the social media channel is shifting away from Marketing and Communications as engagement increasingly relates to inbound customer service-based topics. Rather than social being seen purely as a space for companies to deliver outbound marketing messages, it is the inbound customer queries that allow for meaningful points of engagement and the building of brand advocacy.

Technological limitations

Social media mixes public and private discussions, and combines customer service issues with general chatter and engagement. As such, it requires different approaches to prioritization, workflow and analytics.

All-in-one social media tools built for marketing are not designed to maximize agent efficiency, enable managers to resource their team or measure agent performance against SLAs. Businesses that recognize early on that social customer service needs a dedicated solution quickly gain a competitive advantage by being where their customers are at scale.

Higher stakes

Social media not only presents the opportunity for brands to delight customers on the channel they choose, but also significantly reduce the cost of each interaction. In fact, Gartner has found that social agents are able to handle four to eight times as many issues per hour as a phone agent.

The public nature of social media means that each successful interaction has the potential to be amplified into a peer-to-peer recommendation, delivering marketing benefit that is significantly greater than other channels. Research from NM Incite, a partnership between Nielsen and McKinsey & Company, found that consumers who encounter positive social customer care experiences are nearly three times more likely to recommend a brand than those who do not

However, social customer service also presents high-volume interactions that risk attracting negative publicity due to conversations taking place in a very public forum. Therefore, companies must deeply embed their social customer service operation internally — taking all the steps necessary to minimize risk while optimizing results.

This guide is designed to help you deliver social customer service from within the contact center as a standardized, scalable and ROI-positive operation that lives up to your organization’s promise of quality service.