Forget for a moment how many customers are engaging with your business over social channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from mobile devices. According to a recent report by Ovum, up to 70% of those customers still calling into your call center are likely doing it from the same mobile device - and those calls are likely happening AS your customers are having an issue with your business.
So let's pause here to frame this discussion and work through a then and now scenario. In the past when someone had a problem with your business - a bad flight, a poor hotel stay, a terrible meal and so on, they increasingly engaged in what I refer to as 'long form' complaining. After the fact they gather their thoughts (may be calm down just a little to compose themselves and their complaint). They would increasingly head to sites like Trip Advisor, Cruise Critic, Yelp and the like and they would etch out our poor experience as prose. Laying out our thoughts and poor experience for all to see. Or perhaps they would head home, make a cup of tea (if you're a brit like me) and call the company - waiting on hold just long enough to let the semi-dormant negativity resurge and then have a lengthy (and costly for the brand) discussion on the recent experience. All after the fact.
Resolving the service issue you're in - not the issue you had.
Companies would then assess the previous issue - write that recent event off perhaps financially (comping hotel rooms, flights and so on) and then perhaps additionally incentivize the bruised customer to "give us another chance". We'd promise the next time it will be different. And so goes the classic service cycle.
Today, customers are increasingly engaging, not after the fact but IN THE MOMENT - as they are experiencing your brand - as they walk into a poorly furnished hotel room with no hot water, or into a crowded airport lounge without coffee, as they bite into that stale pastry (moments after taking and posting the obligatory picture of it to Instagram). Like it or not, consumers live out loud. We engage on social as a constant, rhythmic series of captured moments, cataloging our lives for some kind of semi-personal prosperity. And those lives that are captured are filled with precious moments - less private but still oddly personal and of course they are filled with the many brands that we invariably engage with throughout the day. We are living out loud as I said. That is our world.
For brands this represents enormous opportunities for engagement but it also introduces one of the most interesting questions I think today for customer service in the increasingly digital age. Is it enough to build a service culture to satisfy a customer post experience? Are you operationally built to manage the after math of a service issue - are you engineered for post mortem or prevention?
With social in particular, which has overtaken email in many firms, the expectation for real time service resolution NOT for a previous issue but for the one I am facing right now is a very real opportunity. Think about it in this way - with capabilities like geo-tagging on Instagram - a customer can blast out a moment of dissatisfaction with your brand - say they just arrived at the airport and are furious that there are only two counters open at check in. They hold up their phone and take a picture of the crowded departure area and in sarcastic tones let the world know how disgruntled they are - or they tweet you (again with pic) and with a colorful display of language and hashtags they convey their annoyance. Now in the past - your business may have collected and collated this insight and worked on new workforce management in the airport for peak times but the fact is - every brand faces unusual and uncertain dynamics - that's the nature of running a business...
Now if in this new scenario your social teams are connected to operational teams they can coordinate efforts and work together to resolve the issue - in this instance opening up a couple more check in desks (this is a real example by the way). They can tweet back instantly and in that single moment the brand moves from engaging with that customer in a couple of days on a terrible past experience to fixing the experience they are in today. Now..
I urge everyone in customer service to start measuring this important distinction - to start to delineating customers resolution 'after the fact' and 'in the moment' resolution. How many of your customers were re-satisfied in that service moment and how many needed after care support?
As always - I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic @Paulj0hns.