There are a number of unique requirements for a successful social customer service program that aren’t encountered within a traditional customer service setting.
Filtering through social messages is a major challenge for any brand receiving even a moderate volume of customer interactions.
Unlike private service channels, social media consists of many messages and interactions that do not require a response. A study of retailers using Conversocial found that 50% of social media messages merited an agent’s attention, only 10% of which required a response. This demand to noise ratio does, however, vary across companies and industries, with service providers often seeing much higher volumes of actionable conversations (in the range of 50-80%).
It is important for managers to define criteria for what their team should respond to first. What is high priority? What should be always guaranteed to receive a response?
Every company is different, but here’s a framework for separating issues of varying urgency:
Social customer service is all about resolving customer issues regardless of wherever, whenever and however those customers choose to interact. Issue resolution will vary between organizations and across industries. Companies generally determine resolution at one of two points: when a brand has fully addressed a customer’s need or, even better, when a customer acknowledges the brand has solved their issue. On social, the latter type of resolution can often take the form of a public thank you.
Know who you’re talking to
When customers reach out to you on social media they want to carry on their existing conversations with you, not start afresh. This is a major challenge in a multi-channel customer service environment, but get it right and you can offer a much better customer experience.
Firstly, make sure that your team has full visibility of your customers’ social history. Are you already in the middle of a conversation? Have you had similar conversations in the past? Has the customer previously had a positive or negative relationship with your company? Which agent dealt with them before?
Secondly, as your team is fully integrated into the customer service environment, they should have access to systems that hold customer records from other channels, such as your email, chat and phone systems, and core customer information in your CRM system. Getting the data to flow across these systems is the most important step towards a single view of the customer.
Redirection is not good customer service
Customers know that social media offers a different customer experience to traditional channels. They have chosen to speak with your company there, as it is convenient and human. They might even have potentially exhausted and lost confidence in other channels.
Redirecting customers away from their chosen support channel is one of the worst customer service experiences possible, forcing customers to interact in a form they have not chosen. According to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, 65% of customers report that in-channel resolution is the most important aspect of a good customer service experience (American Express 2012). Further, Conversocial research of a cross-section of social customer service interactions found that only 2% of customers who were given an email address or telephone number asked to be provided with one in the first place.
By offering in-channel resolution whenever possible, the consumer receives the interaction they were looking for, and the brand can publicly display any thanks the customer gives. Anxiousness about dealing with sensitive customer information publicly can usually be resolved by using private messaging. This protects both the brand and customer whilst avoiding redirection and a manipulated experience. If it becomes necessary to take the issue to another channel (e.g. for regulatory reasons), keep it on social for as long as possible. And even if an agent resolves an issue privately or on another channel, be sure to take it back to social media to show public resolution. Just a 'thank you' to the customer for their time and patience can suffice.
For sensitive or detailed customer issues that require escalation to another team member, it’s important to have clear processes in place so agents can easily handle incoming messages without confusion or delay. Develop an escalation map that provides:
Tips for effective escalation:
Social media provides an early warning system for developing business issues, from campaigns and product launches to serious reputational problems. It’s also the fastest medium for corporate crises to spread, with a high risk of brand damage.
As such, it is critical to have a clearly defined social media crisis management plan in place. Ensure your PR team can quickly pick up potentially damaging issues, work with management on the official response if needed, then collaborate effectively with frontline social agents on getting that message to customers.
Your social media customer team can likely provide great reach over platforms such as Facebook and Twitter than the PR team can achieve via traditional media. Social is a very effective channel to distribute an official response to issues affecting your customers.
Tips for effective crisis management: