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New Social Customer Rules

Paul Johns
By Paul Johns on May 18, 2015 11:42:00 AM

Social media may well be the most potent customer channel there is today. It's a connection between brands and consumers (as well as amongst consumers themselves) that is public and pervasive. It's also a channel used to engage largely from a mobile device while experiencing your brand in-the-moment as it were. That means that the social channel may also emerge as the most insightful, certainly the most authentic. 


However, this channel has exploded in recent months, overtaking email and other traditional forms of communication as a primary means of engaging with businesses. It has become the channel of choice for consumers across many industries but no one has really taught us how to engage over social media. There's no book for social etiquette (at least not one I have found of value). So, I want to share my 5 new rules. These rules are designed to help both the businesses that embrace social, and the consumer to gain a greater appreciation of the new social contract. That is to say, that as social has grown in volume it is now needing to grow up and be counted as a mature, credible, even critical channel for all companies, large and small. So, the time has come to establish ground rules in how they listen to, and engage with those mobile, social customers but also the consumer needs to demonstrate respect for this very public forum for engagement with the companies they choose to do business with. Here we go....  


The fact is, companies are providing a generous outlet for their brands as they work genuinely to convert dissatisfied customers to brand advocates. This very public (now amplified through google) channel means that positive goodwill can go a very long way. So of course, brands are being quite lavish, providing free swag as part of a genuine effort to resolve an issue raised over social. However, that shouldn't mean that consumers 'use' this channel to get free stuff. It is important that consumers respect this channel as well as brands, remembering that other customers will quickly come out in defense of the brand if they feel another consumer is being unfair or disingenuous. Remember people can see your history so if you're beginning to look like a serial complainer with a slant on receiving free goods you'll lose credibility in the community.  

Our recommendation, certainly take to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook if you want brands to remedy the situation and perhaps even reward you for your continued loyalty but don't abuse the channel. Make sure the complaint is legitimate. Oh and most importantly - make sure you thank the brands for the cool stuff they send you and perhaps even post a picture with your gratitude. Manners cost nothing after all.


This rule is for brands. Here's how it works...You are about to Fly Delta let's say and your flight is delayed or you're bumped (we all get how painful this can all be). So in-the-moment you take to your smart phone with a punchy, frustrated tweet "@delta, once again I am sitting here wondering why my flight is delayed for no apparent reason.." - But before Delta (this is just an example - I love Delta) has a chance to respond, one of their competitors jumps into the conversation. That competitor may look to actually solve your 'live' problem, to demonstrate empathy and to work to fix a situation not caused by them. The two benefits being that you are publicly being helped by another company/competitor AND all at the same time your personal loyalty may well have switched to a new carrier. When brands do this to genuinely help consumers it can be a most powerful brand tool. 

Our recommendation, handle with care brand jackers. Use this tactic sensitively and to provide positive in-the-moment alternatives to help a customer having a bad experience. Remember though that this potential customer is looking for resolution, not interference. Add value - it's when they need it, and perhaps you the most. 


The fact is most brands provide a number of channels on which to engage with customers. That doesn't mean they will pick one. Triaging these channels is becoming quite common. Here's how it works. The consumer is on hold (there are still some who will try to call the contact center first - bless).  So having navigated the IVR they are listening to soothing-please-don't-get-mad-at-us music on hold. As temperatures rise they stay on the line but then decide to tweet or post something on your Facebook page. The customer MAY make reference to still being on hold. In fact many Tweets into a brand start with a complaint about another channel (as many as 21% according to some analyst reports). But some customers will actually stay on the line choking up other voice channels while having the same issue resolved immediately over social media.

Our recommendation, Put more dedicated agents on social media and begin to promote this channel as a primary point of engagement for customers. Have them come to you FIRST on social and not use up more expensive channels unnecessarily. Promote your social handle and give this option up early in your IVR script, and make it prominent in your marketing material and website. Also, start showing your response times on social on your website. Having them come to you social first can drive up value and loyalty while driving down costs. 


Some people believe that social customer service only applies to customers who made a previous buying decision on-line but that's not true at all. In fact the role social customer service plays in conjunction with in-store experiences is really important. As consumers start researching products on-line, those large expensive retail spaces become much more important as re-imagined experience centers. An area to play or interactive with potential purchases in a more dynamic and welcoming environment. The old style of selling-in-store is going the way of the Dodo - replaced with a more consultative approach. So when you are confronted with a positive experience, a helpful, knowledgable live person in store make sure you acknowledge it.  Call out that person on social, they'll be rewarded for it - and you'll feel good about yourself for the rest of the day!

Our recommendation, Brands, make sure there's some kind of incentive in place for staff members receiving positive feedback from customers. Start weighting some of that for positive social media mentions. Make sure your social teams are super responsive when a customer provides positive feedback and pass that along immediately to management  in-store. Social teams are not on the shop-floor but they are part of the same team. 


So you (the customer) have decided to engage with a business over social media. You have Tweeted or Posted a comment that requires action. As a social customer this was likely the first contact and you are looking for answers or the resolution to a service issue. Channel Hopping is where a brand responds by giving you a different means of connecting. Most likely they have provided a telephone number (one you had previously chosen to ignore in favor of social media). Although the priority is to satisfy the customer - that is clear, you need so work to solve those issues over the channel on which they have selected.

Our recommendation, Brands need to work to not only use social as a mechanism to push out content or to simply respond to posts (this is way too passive), you need to ensure social agents have the ability to actually work to resolve those service issues ON the channel in which they arrived. Overtime this will extend to social messaging particularly where sensitive or private information is shared. 


For companies embracing social media as a primary form of customer engagement, I hope you find these new rules helpful as you work to deliver excellent service and value to your social customers.  

Can you think of a 5th rule? If you can, let me know and i'll add!

You can follow me at @paulj0hns.

Topics: Customer Service

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