When we think about how businesses use social media, our thoughts usually center on the marketing department.
However, judging by the preferences of North American consumers, the reality is that social media is actually more heavily used as a customer care channel. A 2013 J.D. Power and Associates study of more than 23,000 online consumers indicated that 67% had used a company’s social media site for service, compared to only 33% for social marketing. And most customer service/contact center observers seem to think that we are only at the beginning of a long trend in this direction.
Witnessing the emergence of social media as a support channel over the past 5 or 6 years has been fascinating, but will it be sustainable? We hope so, because social customer service has two very important inherent advantages; it’s a better experience for the consumer, and less expensive for the care organization.
For connected consumers, social media is probably among the most convenient ways to reach out for service. Of course it’s impossible to convey the details of a complex case in a social post, but for small issues, complaints, easy questions, follow-up, or wrapping up a case, it’s hard to beat. Receiving a quick response to a tweeted service request can be a very satisfactory experience for the customer, and can make a significant contribution to building a positive relationship between customer and brand.
But the positive customer experience that can be had on social channels is negated when a brand is unable to identify the customer behind the post, or even figure out if the poster is a customer at all. When this happens, (and it often does – a 2014 Ovum survey of global telecom providers showed that 93% are unable to identify customers on social), the social care team almost always has to resort to asking the customer to follow and then direct message their account information, creating unnecessary back and forth social exchanges, dragging out the interaction and cancelling out a good portion of the convenience benefit. Even worse, many social care organizations respond to social requests with this capitulation; “please call us at 1-800-555-5555, so we can assist you further”, thereby forcing the customer into the very channel that they were trying to avoid in the first place. So much for the customer experience. Goodbye, first contact resolution. See you later, call deflection.
For care organizations, social can be a very attractive contact channel because of the lower cost per interaction relative to other channels. Social care agents can usually handle multiple cases simultaneously (“concurrency”), and the infrastructure costs of providing social support are considerably lower than phone or even chat support, which means that social care can achieve unmatched cost efficiencies. Due to the incredible range of estimates, it wouldn’t really be possible or helpful here to try and definitively establish an accurate cost model for the contact center, but for the purpose of establishing some context, let’s go with Forrester’s North American Technographics Customer Experience Survey from 2010, which reported the following costs per contact with a customer:
- Phone – $6 and higher
- Web chat – $5 and higher
- Email – $2.50 and higher
- Virtual/Social – less than $1
Social support seems like a clear win – assisting a customer on their preferred channel at a buck or less per transaction – what’s not to like about that? But again, the model only works when the brand is able to identify the customer behind the social post. Being unable to do so, and the subsequent inability to link the customer back to a service or purchase record in the CRM means that the agent and customer have to start the “follow me, follow you” dance, or else the contact has to be re-assigned to the call center. As soon as this happens, the cost savings start to evaporate.
So then, the two key inherent advantages of social customer care, better customer experience and cost savings, can only be exploited when the brand is able to identify the author of the post. However, care organizations rarely have the customer’s social handle(s) entered as an identifying piece of customer data in their CRM, so there is no way to call up the customer, case, or context.
In order to work around this problem, social care agents often spend a significant amount of time playing detective, looking for clues that will lead them to the identity of social posters. Despite their efforts and sleuthing skills, many posts remain anonymous, and a lot of agent time is wasted trying to uncover social identities. Using a machine to automate and accelerate the process of looking up social handles would be much better, but such a machine has not been commercially available.
ThinkCX’s social identity technology (click here for more details) identifies your customers when a social handle is all you have to work with. In 60-80% of cases, ThinkCX is able to resolve the phone number, email address, street address, or zip code connected to a social account, enabling your social care agents to perform a simple customer lookup in their CRM. With a specific customer record on their monitor, your agents side-step the “follow me, follow you” or “call us at ___” dance, and instead are able to focus on providing your customers with direct and meaningful support on the first contact.
With ThinkCX, your customers can finally get the support they expect using their preferred channel. You get to resolve more issues on the cheapest available channel. And so the two inherent advantages of social support – a better customer experience and cost savings – are maintained.