Social media is relatively new to the business world, with many companies still adjusting to the role it plays in connecting with customers. Because of the uncertainty that exists around the use and value of social media, it stands to reason that companies may be conflicted when it comes to assigning responsibility for managing social media communications. Should the marketing department manage all of a business’s social media accounts, responding to tweets and Facebook posts? Should the administrative staff post daily updates? Or should the business owners/executives be directly involved?
For a consumer-focused business, the answer is none of the above.
While your marketing staff may be setting up social awareness campaigns, and your sales staff may use your social networks to find and research leads, the primary social interactions with your prized customers should fall in the hands of the same people who are entrusted to handle the bulk of the regular customer-facing communications; the CSRs. Your call center agents already serve as the liaison between your brand and your customers, and your social media communications should be treated similarly to other channels.
Ye Olde Call Center Already Extends Way Beyond The Phone
While we’ve grown to traditionally associate call center operations with inbound telephone activity, the Internet has opened other channels, leading to the re-christening of the call center as the “contact center”. Today’s CSRs already handle e-mails, support chats, and customer interactions initiated through company websites – social media is simply another extension.
But there are always growing pains. It took a while for customer care organizations to successfully integrate support and service emails into their mainstream CRM systems, so that each email exchange became part of the customer’s permanent record. Ditto with chat. CRM systems had to evolve, and companies had to adjust their work flows in order to integrate chat records into the customer’s history. Even now, the effort to fully integrate email and chat is still a work in progress for many contact centers, even though the channels have been around for well over 10 years.
Now the newest pain is around social channels, as customer service organizations and CRM vendors scramble to make social conversations between customer and brand part of the historical record. Too often, even in 2013, the social channel is separated from the rest of the company’s communication efforts. It’s being handled by a special CSR pool (as if someone who tweets a negative experience is somehow different from other dissatisfied customers), or still seen as something that the young Twitter-savvy intern in the marketing department will sort out.
Social presents a particular challenge because there is so much “noise” – the vast majority of a customer’s social posts and tweets are not relevant and have no impact on the customer-brand relationship. Very few companies have been able to figure out how to filter out the chatter and distraction and track only the relevant conversations between customer and brand (or between customer and competitor’s brand!)
Blending Social With Traditional Contact
Our research has found that social media is an important part of customer service, not so much as an inbound channel unto itself (generally only 1 or 2% of support calls arrive at the contact center on social channels), but more so when the social conversations are woven into the overall dialogue between customer and brand. Nearly 40% of Twitter users stated they appreciate it when a company follows up a support call with an invitation to follow. More than 50% of Facebook users indicated their appreciation when, during a phone support call, the CSR was able to acknowledge a positive Facebook post they’d made in the past. These results shine a light on an alternative to keeping social in its own silo – the integration of social conversations into the overall customer communication records.
Don’t Re-invent – Bring Social Into Your Existing Processes
Just about every sizable company invests heavily into training and equipping their CSRs to respond to customer questions, complaints, praise, feedback, etc… Why change the strategy when it comes to social media? And why not make social conversations available to the main CSR queue in real time when a customer with a social history does call in on a phone service request? Wouldn’t we say it was a necessity for previously called-in or emailed service issues to be on display to the CSR in real time on such a call?
Just as support emails and chats have been pulled into a customer’s history, so also social media conversations should be integrated into the overall customer record for the sake of continuity and a holistic view of the customer. A little re-training and some systems re-jigging might be required, but the bottom line is that social is really just another channel, and one that is worth some investment because it’s not going away any time soon. The sooner your mainstream CSRs are able to manage social interactions along with other channels, the faster your customer care team will be able to deliver a fully seamless support experience.
The key is to bring some standardization into the process. Social responses and outreach are similar to email, in that they are written, mostly permanent, and easily shared. There is plenty of risk in having individual CSRs browsing online profiles or firing off messages with no controls in place, so the flow of social data should be tightly controlled and in most cases, outgoing messages tightly scripted. Obviously, each company will adopt its own policies towards the filtering of social conversations, both inbound and outbound, based on its own unique context and needs…but the bottom line is that the entire CSR pool needs to be privy to social conversations in order to gather a holistic view of the customer and serve them appropriately in real time.
How far have customer care organizations come in the effort to integrate social support into their normal service flows? Have you experienced a service incident yourself recently that suggests your social interactions with a brand are part of your customer record?