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The Challenges of Social Customer Service


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While the opportunities in social customer service are tremendous, there are also significant new challenges for brands.

Customer expectations have increased.

Customers have embraced social as a communication channel and brought it to companies along with their expectations for its use in customer service. Their first expectation is that companies should recognize their preference for engagement over social media and act accordingly. And, there is a growing force of numbers behind that expectation. Research from Forrester Consulting shows that between 2009 and 2014 the number of customers using Twitter for customer service has doubled from 11% to 22% (Forrester 2014) .

Social media customer service, and the new customer expectations that accompany it, have brought about a distinct shift in the balance of power between brands and their customers. Customers are more in control of the customer service process now than at any time before. But, there’s far more behind this power shift than customers’ demand that brands recognize their preference for social.

Your customers:

  • Have more choice of suppliers and channels. 66% of consumers stopped doing business with a provider and switched to another in the past year due to a poor customer service experience, up 17% since 2005 (Accenture Global Consumer Pulse). .
  • Are more connected. 53% of consumers will talk about a bad customer experience they have received on social, while only 42% will share a good one (American Express Customer Service Barometer). . This trend and the viral nature of social media show how customers can wield their power.
  • Demand more speed and simplicity. 71% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service (Forrester). .

Your representatives face challenges delivering the best social customer service.

Living on social media is second nature for most of us now; it’s so easy and enjoyable that it’s often the first place we go to share news, views and information. Unfortunately, providing effective and efficient customer service via social poses new challenges both for agents, who must deal with customers in a new and more intimate manner, and managers, who must balance resources, costs and corporate goals.

For your team, social is:

  • Noisy: Unlike other channels, agents must sift through a lot of content in order to identify customer service issues on social.
  • Confusing: Multiple public and private messages from a single customer are hard to track, and can get lost between agents.
  • A slow process: Lack of efficient approval workflows mean slow, rigid and manual process with extra complexity when resolving an issue that requires involvement from other departments.
  • High stakes: A single error can result in a full-blown social media crisis.

Managers struggle to track KPIs & resource properly.

Managers bear responsibility for the entire customer service operation and must satisfy a number of competing goals and interests. These challenges are primarily technological and operational. Here are the most important ones:

  • Social customer care teams are getting bigger, but managers are stuck with slow and laborious processes to understand team performance.
  • Systems that focus on individual messages rather than the full conversation make ticket-based analytics impossible. Metrics including First Response Time and Average Handling Time are essential for resource planning and team management.
  • A lack of security and approval tools requires agents to slow down in order to follow inefficient reporting processes — such as tracking all activities in spreadsheets—negatively impacts SLAs and reduces quality of care.

But done correctly, social can be highly efficient and cost effective.

4-8x: Social agents are able to handle four to eight times more issues per hour than phone agents (Gartner

<$1: Social costs less than $1 per interaction, compared to $6 per call for phone and $2.50 to $5 per email (NM Incite

The answer is a #SocialFirst approach.

We define our approach to social customer service as #SocialFirst. And, as the name suggests, it places social media at the center of customer engagement as both its foundation and its architecture.

#SocialFirst is about adopting social customer service and adapting to its culture with confidence and at scale to meet your customers where they are, on the channel they own. With a #SocialFirst strategy, brands can fully engage with their customers, provide fast and meaningful service, and gain a powerful differentiator that can result in a competitive advantage over their competitors.

#SocialFirst is more than a concept. It is a set of concrete and achievable goals that can guide brands toward social customer service success. We call those goals the Five Pillars of #SocialFirst.

The Five Pillars of #SocialFirst:

  1. Proactive support for social customer service, making its existence widely known in marketing materials and sales/support collateral
  2. Aggressive engagement aimed at exceeding customer demands
  3. Interacting, rather than reacting as a means to anticipate what customers want and need—before they tell you
  4. Recognizing of social media for its viral power and leveraging that reach to influence the market
  5. Connecting with customers on a deeply personal and emotional level to build relationships and trust

In the following sections, we explain processes and strategies that will help you build an effective and efficient social customer service operation—one that puts #SocialFirst

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Chapter 2: From Reach to Resolution


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Chapter 4: Assembling Your Social Customer Service Team