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5 Social Customer Service Lessons from The Corporate Social Media Summit

Harry Rollason
By Harry Rollason on Jul 1, 2014 1:04:00 PM

5 Social Customer Service Lessons from The Corporate Social Media Summit

The week before last, amidst the excitement of USA’s opening World Cup game vs Ghana, Conversocial sponsored Useful Social Media’s Corporate Social Media Summit in New York. As the official Social Customer Service Sponsor of the event, we went with high hopes of social customer service being a standout issue for many of the brands in attendance, and we were not disappointed. Although the agenda was broad, covering topics from internal structures and training to content creation and lead generation, social customer service was one of the hot topics of the event.

So with the sun set once more on the summit, what did we learn from the stellar line-up of corporate speakers? What should you take away and apply to your own social customer service strategy?

1. Social Customer Service Adds Transparency:

Dan Montanaro, CEO of TradeKing, a company whose reputation has been built on social customer service delivery, started the day with an incisive observation. This was the sole purpose of social media is for customer service, an opinion that is very close to our hearts. Dan stated that social media drives accountability, which should be embraced not feared. Obviously it is impossible to please everyone, but you have to at least acknowledge your consumers outreach, be it the bad, the good or the downright ugly! Therefore you must make sure you are there to answer your customers when they reach out to you–in the channel they decide to reach out to you in.

Best Practice Tip: Prioritization - Social media is full of noise, making it difficult for agents to identify the sensitive issues that matter to your brand. Ensure your brand chooses a solution that enables intelligent prioritization of incoming messages, enabling agents to respond to 'higher risk' issues first.

2. Human are Humans and Errors Happen:

Also, in the opening panel of day one, there was an interesting debate between the panelists on whether having social media guidelines for your employees just really boil down to “don’t be an idiot on social”. I doubt that Century21’s or Trade Kings’ social media guidelines are quite as simple as that, but it did raise an interesting question, namely about how much brands can control the conversation on social. Social customer service comes into its own when meaningful two way communication takes place. This helps “humanize” (one of my most hated words) what can be otherwise stiff corporate images. However with social media crises far common and well publicized (from US Airways to Pizza Express and ASOS to KLM) it is important your company takes potential human errors seriously and takes precautions to minimize the risk–whilst not stifling creativity.

Best Practice Tip: Workflow - With the high incoming volumes social media brings, agents and managers need to work seamlessly to balance workload and avoid duplication of effort. Therefore, it is essential to have an approval workflow, ensuring adherence to process and reducing risk of error.

3: No Such Thing As A Bad Complaint:

This is obviously a very broad statement, and no brand wants dissatisfied customers. But it was interesting to hear Chris Krohn, CMO of Restaurant.com, make the point that it is much more valuable to know about these dissatisfied customers than not. And social customer service gives your brand the ability to listen, acknowledge and work towards solving these issues. By hearing the negative you can hopefully turn a once disgruntled customer into a happy one, thus potentially making them into a returning one. It also has an added benefit, the public nature of social means that your social community will see your response. By using social as a customer service tool you can make sure you are there to hear the negative, turning the situation to your advantage.

Best Practice Tip: Proactive Customer Service - Proactive customer service provides the opportunity to detect/respond to messages on social that may otherwise slip under the radar. Therefore you need to make sure you are listening to more than just direct @mentions as if you are you are likely to miss service issues, or potential sales opportunities. You need to make sure you are carrying out proactive searches over social as this will broaden your scope for engagement, meaning you don't miss an opportunity for conversation. It also allows you to you to pluck into your "social barometer" using what you hear for actionable business decisions when it comes to negative sentiment, customer issues and ideas to make product/service changes.

4: Work Within Your Own Time Frame:

In one of the most engaging presentations of the day, Natanya Anderson, Director of Social Media and Digital Marketing at Whole Foods, discussed the impact of social data on your business. She had found that Wholefoods got most views and likes on their social marketing posts at 3PM, going against pretty much every “Social Media Best Practice” book out there. Although not directly relevant to social customer service it did get me thinking on how the same thought process can apply. One of the key metrics for social customer service is a fast First Response Time; by analyzing inbound volume you can see at what time your customers are most likely to reach out to you on a given day. This can therefore impact internal resourcing, helping you scale social internally effectively.

Best Practice Tip: Real-time Analytics - Real-time analytics are key to continually monitoring the SLA and KPI performance of agents, as well as providing an early indicator for issues that might require involvement of other departments. Additionally, social customer should be a clear indicator and influence when it comes to resourcing decisions.

5. Don't Take Yourself To Seriously:

In one of the final sessions of day one Linda Rutherford, Vice-President of Communications and Strategic Outreach for Southwest Airlines, provided one of the  best quotes of the two days. She discussed the importance of creating your own brand voice, one that you are comfortable talking in. People go to social media for customer service issues,  entertainment and fun, your brand's voice should replicate this even in social customer service issues. This process is helped by creating a live social customer service playbook, that allows you to outline what’s expected of your employees over social. It helps by setting out your own tone of voice. For example how formal/informal you can be in your social responses? Through this playbook you will be able to give employees guidelines the help create a fun brand voice in their responses.

Best Practice Tip: Context - Your social customer conversations need to provide prior interaction history to give agents a full context of the customers issue. A complete action history, of both private and public messages, gives agents greater context of the customers outreach, resulting in more educated engagement and ability to personalize the conversation.

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