Over the past few years, social customer service has gone from being the focus of a small number of highly innovative companies to a widely accepted requirement of doing business.
We talk about the transition to social customer service as a journey from ‘Reach’ to ‘Resolution.’ This journey takes place in three stages, from simply listening on social (that’s the ‘Reach’) and redirecting customers off social media and back to traditional service channels, through to a small team of social agents helping customers in an ad hoc way, and finally to a fully-resourced team, focused on ‘Resolution’ and fully integrated into contact center processes, analytics and technology.
At the start of the journey, social media is a marketing channel used almost exclusively for outbound publishing and promotion. Companies at this stage are ‘Reaching’ out to their customers on social, but it’s largely a one-way conversation. There may be basic community management and engagement, but genuine customer service issues are either ignored or deflected to more traditional channels like email and phone. As a result, companies in this stage fail to use social as a customer service channel and thus fail to meet customer expectations or to leverage the efficiency gains of service over social.
At this stage, companies — often beginning with the Marketing Department — recognize the need for some sort of social customer service presence. These organizations adopt a perfunctory social customer service strategy in an effort to improve their engagement over social, usually achieved through working with the Customer Service Department. The contact center resources allocated are usually just enough to deal with incoming volume and are in effect ‘on loan’ to marketing, typically using whatever tool the marketing team provides (often an all-in-one social media management system). This type of operation is usually managed outside normal resourcing and contact center management, with few strict processes or KPIs.
Over the last couple of years, Conversocial has seen a rapid increase in the number of companies reaching Stage Two; with our latest analysis demonstrating that around 50–60% of companies are at this stage. While companies in Stage Two are helping some customers over social media, their minimal coverage means response times are usually slower than consumers expect. Additionally, the lack of information about agent and team performance makes efficient resourcing impossible, prevents the ability to integrate with CRM and business intelligence systems, and impedes the operation from being able to scale effectively.
Here, the business as a whole recognizes that social media is a key customer service channel, alongside phone, email and chat. The contact center is given responsibility for managing, training and resourcing the social customer service operation. The focus of social customer service becomes full engagement and timely ‘Resolution.’
At this stage, social customer service is measured for maximum efficiency and ROI. Precise metrics are used to ensure social customer service teams are delivering the experience customers expect, and are resourcing their agents effectively. These tools enable companies to efficiently train and manage a wider pool of agents, who can focus exclusively on social media (either completely, or within any one particular shift). Most importantly, customers receive excellent customer service over social media.
When will most companies reach Stage Three of social customer service? Sooner than you may think. According to recent research from Forrester Consulting commissioned by Conversocial, over 67% of companies believe that social customer service is growing in importance, and is the most pressing short-term priority for contact centers. Additionally, 92% of companies view customer experience as one of their top priorities in the long term and 60% use it as a competitive differentiator.
Providing excellent social customer service in the contact center is only possible with dedicated and best-in-class software that enables measurement, resourcing, and is capable of integrating with existing systems (e.g. CRM, workforce management, and central contact center technologies). Companies that attempt to make the shift to Stage Three without a social customer service solution explicitly designed for social risk being stuck with tools not built for their needs.