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Social Media and Customer Service

Customers have come to expect service on their terms and within their preferred communication styles, including social media.

What is social customer service?

Social customer service, sometimes called social care, is the practice of serving customers via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. It can include reactively engaging with customer questions and issues, as well as proactively reaching out and educating customers.  

What do customers expect from companies on social media?

The past several years have seen an evolution in what is expected from brands on social media. Social networks allow brands to have direct communication with their current and prospective customers, which can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, brands can market to consumers in more personal and meaningful ways. On the other hand, brands are challenged to address customer needs and questions through even more channels.

Consumers are 88% less likely to buy from companies that ignore social media complaints.

The shift to providing customer service through social media requires companies to be prepared to provide service on the customer's terms. In his book Customer Experience 3.0, John A. Goodman gives the example of a brand of soda that only provided social care Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. However, they soon discovered that the majority of customer issues occurred after hours or over the weekend, when their customers were more likely to be drinking soda. What happens to the customer who tweets a complaint Friday at 5:30 p.m.? How happy will he be if he has to wait until Monday morning to have his issue resolved? By then, his issue may no longer even be relevant, and his brand loyalty could be irreparably damaged. 

Since it takes an average of 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience, the soda brand now has a long way to go if it hopes to win back this customer. Social media customer service best practices dictate that brands must make themselves available when customers are most likely to need them.

In addition to availability, brands must also concern themselves with response times. According to research from Forrester, 77% of US consumers say that valuing their time is the most important aspect of online customer service. Customers expect responses to their emails in four hours or less, but expect a social media response within an hour. In fact, Facebook only grants the coveted "Very responsive to messages" badge to Pages that typically respond within 15 minutes. Is your brand equipped to provide the rapid social response customers expect?

Benefits of succeeding at social customer service

Many companies are attempting social care, but few are doing it well. According to Business2Community, 90% of enterprise companies say they use social media to respond to customer service inquiries. However, 58% of consumers who have tweeted about a bad experience never received a response from the offending company. This presents a huge opportunity to meet and exceed customer expectations for social media service, and provide a better customer experience

More than one million people view tweets about customer service every week, and 80% of them are negative or critical.

Because everything posted on your social media accounts becomes part of the public record, not responding to social requests in a timely manner has long-term ramifications. Potential customers could see unanswered complaints as a red flag, affecting their decision to do business with you. In fact, consumers are 88% less likely to buy from companies that ignore social media complaints. How many social complaints are out there for all to see? HelpScout estimates that each week, more than one million people view tweets about customer service, and around 80% of them are negative or critical in nature. However, every complaint presents an opportunity: companies that can resolve a complaint in the customer's favor are likely to receive that customers repeat business 70% of the time. Plus, there is the added benefit of an audience witnessing you delighting your customers. Getting social care right -- especially when so many are getting it wrong -- has boundless potential for brands. 

Providing quick and accurate social care

Brands that attempt to provide social care are often overwhelmed by the massive deluge of social conversations. How can they keep up when consumers create an average of 500 million new tweets per day? Social listening and brand monitoring tools can comb the internet in real time to provide a constant stream of social mentions about your brand. However, very few social media monitoring tools can intelligently push the most pressing customer requests to the top of the stack. For example, the Domino's brand is mentioned on social media constantly, but an average of only 3% of posts require attention and action from Domino's social care team. Using smarter social media management software, Domino's can tune out the other 97% of non-actionable social chatter and focus on the customers that need their help, or the new customers they can capture with real-time marketing. This approach shortened their handling time of social cases from 15 minutes to five minutes -- just one of many social media customer service examples that illustrates what difference software can make.

Brands providing social care need to ensure responses are not only quick, but also accurate. However, many organizations are not currently set up to handle incoming questions or complaints via social media. This is due to the fact that most companies view social media management as the marketing team's responsibility. While it is true that social media has its place as a marketing tool, companies must evolve their teams to respond to changes in customer expectations. In the age of the customer, who owns social media: marketing or customer service? Put simply, both! Marketing and service have to work together to establish processes and workflows for handling customer complaints and questions. Some tools allow a social media manager to route a question to the service person they know can provide the right resolution, then make it easy for the service person to respond to the customer directly through the social channel in question. An social media customer service example workflow might be: 

  1. Social media management software pulls in all social posts concerning the brand.
  2. Rules and configurations within the software determine that a post needs a response.
  3. Post is automatically pushed into the CRM system, along with important contextual information, so that an agent can respond.
  4. Agent engages with post without having to leave the CRM, and the full details of the exchange are captured in the CRM and social media software
  5. The response is automatically posted to the native platform, so the customer gets an accurate answer within minutes.

Technology can enable an effective collaboration between marketing and service to deliver social customer engagement and follow social media customer service best practices -- an effort that is critical to the brand's long-term success.

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