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Social customer service - E-Commerce leading the pack

Joshua March
By Joshua March on Jun 15, 2011 3:51:00 PM

In my day to day job, I get to speak to a whole range of companies and discover how they're managing social media channels. I've watched the key champions for brands' social media initiatives move in-house and shift away from external agencies. Social media managers now exist in most marketing departments. Now, I'm observing another growing trend: customer questions and complaints on Facebook and Twitter are leaving marketing departments to be dealt with by dedicated customer service teams.

Companies who try to make their mark on social networks, but ignore or attempt to block incoming customer conversations inevitably fail - often expensively. Responding properly to every question and issue is a time consuming process - and not one that marketing departments are traditionally suited for. As the volume of messages through social networks continues to increase, managing customer communication gets harder and harder for social media managers. We're finally starting to see companies take this seriously. More and more are looking to properly plug social channels into their customer service centres.

This is no simple challenge. Making customer service teams 'social' has its difficulties.

There's nowhere to hide

In social media, customer questions and company responses are public. What you say to your customers, and how quickly you do so, is now highly visible for the world to see and judge. Your customer community, prospective customers, and their friends will find out more swiftly than ever before how you treat people. Tone of voice and usefulness of response are much more critical for social networks than for traditional, private customer support systems.

One brand, one voice

When you reply to a fan with a comment on your Facebook page, or respond on Twitter, the response comes from the brand. Unlike a private email from Jenny in customer services, anything can be quoted as an official statement. Hiding behind the 'it was just an intern' excuse is wearing thin - and even then the backlash can be huge. This may sound scary - but as Gartner point out, customers are using social media for customer service requests in ever-increasing numbers, and this will only keep growing. The impact on your brand of ignoring these is much more damaging than the pain of re-evaluating your approach to social networks.

The process is much more complex than just giving Facebook admin access to your customer service agents. Because of the unique nature of social media, marketing and customer service have to work together to ensure that customer support messaging is fit to be used publicly. It must represent the brand appropriately and be easily visible and shareable. Making customer service social is about changing the way you look at your business organisation and abandoning traditional notions of company communications.

So what are companies doing about it?

I've seen that whilst a lot of companies are *talking* about social customer service, ecommerce and e-tail companies are leading the pack in terms of real implementation. Most sectors are starting to get the hang of the marketing and promotional opportunities in social media, but it's the e-commerce companies that are plugging in their real customer service agents, alongside their social media managers, to handle all those who speak back.

We've watched companies we work with do this effectively. Their social media managers have worked proactively with customer service managers to develop new training, reporting, and escalation processes that fit for Facebook and Twitter. This requires upfront investment - but this is far outweighed by increased customer satisfaction, boosts to brand value, and reduced service costs from using trained customer service agents, rather than higher cost social media managers.

At Conversocial, we have always strongly believed that to get the highest value from social channels, you must integrate them fully into your business.

It's a simple concept that is well understood for other communication channels. The best people to manage the outgoing messages are your marketeers, and the best people to manage questions, queries and complaints are your customer service representatives.

To make this happen in the shared space of social networks, new tools and processes are required. Social Media Management Systems are a large piece of this puzzle. We already have some great customers, like Groupon and NET-A-PORTER.com, using Conversocial to enable different business functions to work together. Our software helps bridge the gap between traditionally separate teams. We think that this coming together of marketing and customer service is the future, and want to do everything we can to help.

Conversocial is a Social Media Management System that helps businesses manage the increasing volume of two-way communication going through social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Through in-depth engagement analytics and comprehensive comment management tools, Conversocial enables effective marketing distribution and customer support.

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Topics: Industry News, Retail, Social Leaders

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