A Proactive Approach to Managing Customer Service in the Age of Social Media


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News or other commentary, good or bad, travels fast and far via social media. According to Social2B, Twitter users are, in total, generating an average of more than 95 million tweets per day; Facebook has more than 500 million active users, each connected to an average of 80 community pages, groups, and events; LinkedIn says it is adding one million new members every week, one new member every second; and YouTube has over four million people that are connected and auto-sharing video to at least one social network!

But what does this mean for customer service, especially since interactions via social networks are often vague and indirect?

Just as social media has forever altered the way we communicate with our friends and family, it is also changing the face of business communications. However, many companies are unaware of what their customers are saying about them on social media channels and do not know how to monitor those channels to find out. Even those that do monitor social media channels are often unclear about what comments warrant attention versus what can be safely ignored amid the continuous barrage of social media “noise.” Additionally, these companies are often unclear on exactly what action to take to address customer complaints or what they should do with positive customer comments or feedback to provide better customer service and negate the naysayers.

In the days before social media came into prominence, companies only had to worry about angry customers expressing their dissatisfaction directly to company representatives by phone or on their premises, later sharing their bad experience and displeasure with a few of their close friends through word of mouth or a personal email. Now, service complaints can be sent to literally millions with the single push of a button via social media channels. And even though some companies may believe that the seemingly less personal nature of a blog post or Tweet would diminish the impact of negative comments versus a personal conversation, this does not seem to be the case.

Proprietary consumer research that Convergys conducted on the customer experience indicates that social media has five times the impact – positive or negative — of traditional word of mouth. Our research further indicates that 62% of customers who heard about a bad experience on social media intentionally stopped doing business with or avoided doing business with the company in question. This means that every social media post has the potential to affect a company – for better or for worse. The key lies in knowing how to amplify the opinions of a company’s brand enthusiasts while servicing a company’s brand detractors. It is more important than ever that companies learn to treat social media as an important interaction channel and leverage it to not only promote, but also to protect, the company brand.

With the right information, companies can learn to treat social media as just another interaction channel and leverage it to promote their brand, while also attracting and retaining customers of all ages. As a leading provider of customer management solutions, we recommend companies follow a three step approach — “Listen, Decide, and Engage” — to help them manage the complete social media experience from start to finish. This approach will not only help companies increase their customer loyalty and strengthen their company brand, but it also will help them increase sales and reduce their
cost of service.

  • Listen – With the potential for negative customer feedback to quickly reach viral proportions, businesses cannot afford to ignore what customers are saying about them via social media channels. Using technology to monitor social networks, blogs, forums, and traditional media in real time to analyze sentiment and listen for issues is the first part of an effective social interaction strategy. Listening helps a company proactively protect its brand and gives a company insight into positive customer experiences that it can leverage to increase brand awareness, improve customer service, and strengthen customer loyalty.
  • Decide – Inbound communications via traditional channels such as phone and email are specific and direct, while interactions via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are often vague and indirect. It is often a challenge to determine which of these communications warrant a company’s attention and which can be safely ignored amid the continuous barrage of social media “noise”. It takes more than listening alone to turn social media interactions into actionable intelligence. A company can enhance the data collected from listening by defining business policies and rules about how it should respond to posts and comments. Business policies and rules can determine which issues are actionable – that is, which should be elevated to a live agent based on customer sentiment, influence, lifetime value, and other key factors for a personalized response – and which social media interactions can be safely ignored.
  • Engage – Giving skilled live agents the tools they need to facilitate and guide online support and collective / crowd – sourced resolutions is extremely important for social media interactions. Engagement work teams should have the ability to assign and route posts, tag results with relevant information, and classify and mark action status on items. Roles that live agents can handle in the engagement phase of a social interactions framework are as follows: Community advocates, who are primarily involved in moderating all content provided by community members; Social advocates, who are responsible for identifying the question type and proposed response; and Managed Listening Services, who are responsible for engaging within social networks.

Companies should not wait for a crisis situation to go viral or a spike in customer churn or declining sales to actively engage in managing this ubiquitous and complex communications network. There are tools and customer management solutions providers that can help companies manage and take advantage of the human need to express praise, satisfaction, dissatisfaction and disappointment via social media.

Social Intelligence is the new business intelligence and businesses who adopt best practices in enabling social media will quickly gain a competitive advantage over those who are slow to implement a social strategy. Gathering data to monitor customer-to-customer conversations, analyzing the data and using insights from your analysis to drive business decisions, determining customer sentiment, and taking action to determine how to respond to customers will allow an organization to effectively work with social media. This Listen, Decide, Engage framework helps companies manage a complete social experience from start to finish, increasing customer loyalty, strengthening the company’s brand, increasing sales, and reducing the cost to serve.

Scot Harris
Scot Harris is a senior director of market strategy in Convergys' Customer Management business, responsible for the communications vertical.


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