In 2012, an IBM survey of approximately 1,700 CEOs around the globe predicted that social media would become the number two customer interaction channel behind phone somewhere between 2015 and 2017. A 2012 Gartner Predicts said that by 2014, refusing to communicate with customers on social media would be as harmful as ignoring phone calls or emails. Social media may not have taken over as the top dog in customer interaction channels as many reports predicted a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean brands and organizations should stop paying attention.
While social media currently ranks low on the most-used customer service channels (according to the 2014 Forrester North American Consumer Technographics Customer Life Cycle Survey, only 37% of U.S. online adults surveyed said they have used social media over the past year for customer service compared with community forums at 50%, phone 73% and web self-service at 76%), there’s a quality versus quantity argument to be had with justifying a continued or improved investment in the social customer relationship.
As we’ve seen, the reputations of many major brands have been put on public notice via a single customer tweet or post where the brand was either not listening, non-responsive or ill-equipped to respond (both to the tweet or post – and to the customer’s problem – before other customers, competitors and the media caught on). For brands that have never been caught in the crosshairs of a disgruntled social customer, many are still rolling the dice and running the risk of not integrating social media as a customer service channel. The 2007 Eagles’ song Busy Being Fabulous could easily represent the socially active but relationship-disengaged approach many brands continue to take.
Though the song refers to a significant other who was too busy focusing on themselves to pay attention to the other person in the relationship, the gist could easily apply to brands that still spend a significant amount of time, money and effort on social media promoting their sales and marketing campaigns while letting their customers’ questions, feedback and issues languish for hours, days or weeks if responding at all.
As a communication vehicle in the multichannel customer relationship, social media has become the service channel many times used in emotional situations of frustration, anger, distress, disgust – or on the other side, extreme joy or appreciation. Timely social responsiveness and readiness with the right answer, empathy, authentic voice and empowerment to answer the question or resolve the issue means everything.
Lose Focus, Lose Customers
For those brands that have relaxed their focus on social customer care, it isn’t just costing a customer or two year-over-year. It can slowly cost brands a differentiating sales and service lead. According to the 2014 report from Aberdeen Group, Social Customer Care: Steps to Success authored by Omer Minkara, companies that maintain a social customer care program experience a 5.6% year-over-year increase in first contact resolution, a 6.7% increase in revenue per contact, and a 7.5% increase in customer retention (while companies with no social customer service strategy see a positive change of just 2.9%).
Lose Focus, Lose the Lead
In addition, 83% of best-in-class companies are known to share social customer care interaction data and related feedback with departments and staff outside the contact center. The very public opinion received via social media, both good and bad, is helping leading brands and organizations to improve products, services, culture and overall performance and even proactively head off and solve trending issues in real-time.
Social media may not have panned out as predicted as the customer service channel to trump all other service channels, but it certainly has its place. You may not love it, but brands and organizations cannot leave it. Keep investing in social responsiveness, instead of just being socially fabulous, and this still evolving channel and the relationship you keep with customers on it will pay off in the long run.