How to Integrate Social Media Into Customer Service Channels

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With 70% of customer complaints on social channels going unanswered, there’s a huge opportunity for organizations improve service experience simply by integration social customer service.

With the introduction of social media there now exists a new opportunity for customer service agents to interact with customers in a new way, something which is yet to be fully embraced by the majority of traditional customer service contact centers.

For the past decade customer services in most contact center has been delivered through the traditional methods of calls and email contacts, with the growth of more cost effective channels through the web and online on-line chat in more recent years.

Myopic Customer Service Frameworks

Too many contact centers, where typical customer cases are handled, are fantastically myopic in their focus of service actions. I’ve seen too many call centers where contact agents are completely firewalled from outside channels and sources of customer information in an attempt to squeeze every ounce of productivity from a primary contact channel assignment.

This means that agents working the phones really only ever interact with a telephone. Depending in the location, data or resources are limited to company-approved portals or dashboards that are isolated from other sources of real life data.

Many organizations see expanding an agent’s access to data as a process inefficiency that must be eliminated, rather than an opportunity to allow agents access to a complete picture of the state of service and creating the opportunity for an agent to offer a more holistic service experience.

Carolyn Blunt, Principal Consultant at Real Results Training, recently outlined some interesting trends into the development of social media as an effective customer service contact channel and it spurred some additional thoughts about the current state of social service and the opportunity that exists for organizations to excel in their service experience through integrating social customer service.

The Social Disconnect of Contact Centers Today

Traditional training in the contact center over the past ten years have focused on developing front line agents’ listening skills, voice tone, positive language, empathy, rapport, problem solving and complaint handling skills. Yet the transference of this skill to, for example, 140 (publicly published) characters is yet to be fully embraced by the contact center industry.

Failure to respond to customer requests via social media channels can lead to a 15% increase in the churn rate for existing customers.

~ Gartner

Interestingly, Global management Consultants’ AT Kearney’s 2ndAnnual Social Media Survey, confirms that of the top 50 brands (measured by Interbrand), only a handful focus on two-way communication, and 27 did not respond to a single social media query in the measured period.  Jim Singer from AT Kearney notes:

The majority of companies we looked at are not moving toward a more interactive use of social media, even as their customers are becoming clearer about their expectation to interact with their brands.”

With 70% of customer complaints on social channels being ignored, there’s a huge opportunity for organizations looking for a strategic advantage in their customer experience.

Practical Approaches to Social Customer Service

In our experience social media monitoring and using social media is not yet done in the majority of customer service call center.

Consumers 18 to 29-years-old are more likely to use a brand’s social media channel for customer service interactions (43%) than for marketing (23%).

~ J.D. Power and Associates Social Media Benchmark Study

There’s a growing number of customers looking to social as their primary customer contact channel and the number will only continue to increase as a more digitally savvy population takes over the primary customer demographic for more organizations. Yet today, the responsibility for using social media too often still remains with many PR and Marketing functions (as of course, it also an excellent tool for sales and marketing purposes).

Service Interaction

collaborative approach will be required if the trends continue as predicted. The need to train customer service agents in how to deliver customer service in 140 characters will rise.

When companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more with the company.

~ Bain & Company

Training for agents to take advantage of this new interaction channel effectively will need to include the tools and processes for using social media effectively as well as the content of conversations and the abilities to know when to take the conversations offline. Agents will need to be multi-skilled in all channels for social customer interactions.

Feedback Mechanism

Another option is to use tools to ‘listen’ to where the brand is being mentioned and have alerts that are then routed to the appropriate team, be it Customer Service, Sales or PR/Marketing for the right response.

71% of consumers who experience a quick and effective brand response on social media are likely to recommend that brand to others, compared to just 19% of customers who do not receive a response.

~ NM Incite

This still allows PR/Marketing to control the external facing brand tweets and updates but allows Customer Service teams to swiftly solve any problems and issues that are being publicly highlighted.

Whichever approach is taken the authentic, personal touch will continue to be in demand for a winning customer experience. While the customer service agents in the call center are the original experts in one-to-one customer service; they will need support and empowerment as we redefine how customer service is delivered.

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