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Chapter 1

The Era of the Customer



You’ve read the stats, you see the shift. Customer service is no longer a necessary extra for your brand, but rather positioned to be the main differentiator between you and the competition. You are serving the “Now” generation and the customer has never been more empowered or your brand more vulnerable that at this period of time.

Authenticity and humanity have become some of the most valuable characteristics for your brand. Yet, Forrester reports that 45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. Customer service must remain efficient and speedy, but process and interaction void of humanity (or common sense resolution) will push your customers to the competition who is only a few clicks away.


Multi-channel communication and customer expectations

Your customers are mobile-minded, social media savvy with higher expectations and a lower resistance to change. Social gave them a voice to amplify frustration, reach out for help and even pronounce their praise for beloved brands.

In 2012 to 2014 a sharp shift in expectation, driven by customers’ public venting sessions, helped brands understand the criticality of engagement on customers’ channel of choice, on their terms. Any conversation falling short of a ‘in the moment’ resolution has become obsolete and unacceptable.

The benefits were clear as the risks. Don’t respond and get put on blast, or respond incorrectly and get put on blast. The only hope for brands was a novel approach - to engage proactively and with greater authenticity. Social volumes increased and those early adopting brands became initial champions for social customer service.

Measuring the conversion of sentiment while capturing the most authentic insights delivered a new degree of business value. Social changed the way brands gathered customer feedback, entered new markets, adapted products and drove up efficient conversations with defectors and advocates.

Social media has reached a high level of maturity as a communication channel, and people have found appropriate ways to effectively integrate it into their lives alongside other technologies—and they expect brands to have followed suit on the channels they choose. Inbound social 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!”).

Public Venting to Private Resolution

Public Venting to Private Resolution - the Maturation of the Social Customer

Ready for another twist in the social narrative? Buckle up cause there is a big shift happening right now, the move to more private channels. Customers have evolved over recent years to prefer a more mature interaction with their brands of choice. The bottom line is that this newly, reinvented customer just wants resolution and defers to personal one-to-one channels instead of one-to-many, public channels. This doesn’t let brands off the hook for stellar, human service. As the social customer will keep one finger on the escalation button and one eye on the prize when dealing with you. If you will not resolve in-channel or respond quickly, those public takedowns of your brand are still on the table.

In general though, the social media community has changed. Private messaging is the new public posting. Don’t believe it? Look at these numbers of the networks with the highest amount of monthly active users:

The platforms with the highest amount of monthly active users

Don’t lose sight by these astounding numbers. There are still an enormous amount of users populating public social networks, but the tide is turning and your customers are finding the engagement they want on these private social channels.

Private messaging channels can be hard to navigate, track and analyze. Right now top brands are building localized communities across these channels, and providing customers with VIP access to service, information and news.

Integration is crucial in this rapidly maturing market. Otherwise you are leaving your customers messily triaging their engagement with you across multiple channels for their single issue - throwing out the signal for help, hoping that you will be #SocialFirst and customer savvy on at least one of the channel. All this does is choke out overall channel capacity and drive up costs for your business.

Who Owns Social? The Customer

Ownership of social media has been a hot topic and often times causing friction between departments in Enterprises where both marketing and customer service see the value of social media engagement. A steady influx of inbound customer service-based topics has flipped the script and rather than social being seen purely as a space for companies to deliver outbound marketing messages, it is the inbound customer queries that are helping reshape how brands compartmentalize these channels.

The general consensus across both marketing and service channels is that customers are seeking more personalized experiences and Social is the channel where companies can best show that they are human, responsive and alert to customers’ concerns.

The value of social isn’t limited to the customer-facing aspects. On the backend, social provides valuable data to glean patterns in customer behavior, communication, and recurring complaints. Social has broadened avenues for brands to do customer support better. For example:

Social has broadened avenues for brands to do customer support better.

  • Twitter removed the character limit on its direct messages

  • Private Social channels such as Chat are exploding

  • Legacy service vehicles such as Live Chat and email are seeing a shift in tone and engagement from Social customers

A brand is the sum of every interaction it has with its customers

Avoiding Collision Between Marketing and Service

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, and do not enable managers to resource their team or measure agent performance against SLAs. As a result, brands must select a solution built for social customer service.

By using best of breed solutions for both service and marketing needs, brands can provide their customers the most satisfying experience possible. A brand is the sum of every interaction is has with its customers; social is yet another touchpoint, so is customer service.

Social teams operating from Marketing and Service Must:

  • Getting out of each other’s way so that everyone can do what they know best.

  • Use Social as a unifier, breaking down departments normally siloed.

Checklist for Creating a Seamless Roadmap for Marketing and Service on Social

A: Marketing Checklist:

  • A cross-company tone of voice on social that is ‘human’ and efficient.

    A team of dedicated social agents (both service and marketing) in relation to volumes.

    Executive visibility into KPIs and performance

    Full adoption of technology, cultural practices, and operations through company.

B: Service Checklist:

  • A proactive social customer service strategy.

    In-channel resolution for all queries, regardless of engagement.

    Early adoption of new channels (e.g Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc)

    Upserve over social, contributing to future customer lifetime value.

A Customer Owned Channel Means Higher stakes

Social media not only presents the opportunity for brands to delight customers on the channel they choose, but also significantly reduces 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 (Gartner).

Not to mention the cost of legacy channels:

Customer Service Channel Approx. Cost Per Contact
Call center technical support $12 and higher
Call center CSR $6 and higher
Web chat or callback $5 and higher
Email response $2.50 to $5 and higher
Web self-service $0.10 or less

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 a high volume of interactions that run the risk of attracting negative publicity due to the nature of the more public channels such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Brands who care about their reputation must deeply embed their social customer service operation internally - taking all of the necessary 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.

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