Social Customer Service: The Savior to a Successful Omni-Channel Strategy


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Saying that the customer is key to omnichannel is nothing new.

It’s a given when we see such stats as 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage be it web, social media web or in person.

Let’s be frank. Omnichannel has had bruises:

-Accenture notes in recent surveys that 65% of respondents are frustrated in inconsistent experiences when they are using multiple channels.
-Brands aren’t interacting with customers where they are. The social landscape has clearly changed. According to Pew Research, in 2005, only 5% of US adults used at least one social media platform compared to today when 65% of the US uses some type of social media.
-While customers want “anytime access” to customer service as well as options to be able to contact a live service rep quickly when they need help, brands aren’t delivering on this expectation.

Because brands are easily accessible through their social media accounts, it would make perfect sense for these brands to handle customer issues through their social channels.

According to a survey J.D. Power conducted in 2013, 67% of consumers have used social media to resolve their customer service issues. Also, Nielson found that 33% of customers prefer to contact brands via social media than the telephone or email. And, according to Microsoft’s 2016 State of Global Customer Service Report, 64% percent of millennials believe social media is an effective customer service channel.

Customer inquiries on social are increasing. In Twitter’s recent research, it found that customer service conversations had increased by 2.5x in the past two years.

Since it is social media, customers expect timely resolution. Fast responses are an essential part of meeting customer expectations for social care. Twitter found that 60% of consumers expect brands to respond to their query within the hour.

Brands are missing the boat and not taking advantage of a golden opportunity to enhance the customer experience.

A recent study that Five9 conducted with the International Customer Research Institute (ICMI) revealed that while more than 68% of businesses recognize social media as a necessary service channel, 60% of companies are not formally supporting social customer care.

Twitter said that companies were handling only 60% of customer inquiries. In other recent studies, such as one that Sprout Social conducted, as much as 80% of customer inquiries via social have remained unanswered.

According to Conversocial, 88% of consumers are less likely to buy from companies who leave complaints unattended.

Gartner found that failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers.

Brands have cited everything under the sun on why they are unable to provide social customer service:

-inability to listen to social activity at multiple social channels
-too much spam to determine what is/is not actionable
-challenges in integrating social with their CRM and prioritize responses
-difficulty in ascertaining the right departments to handle the issue
-they do not know how to respond – what are the approved responses, how can it be articulated in 140 characters or less, -how do we know whether someone else has already responded to the customer
-no way to ensure a particular person or group gets the credit for responding to and resolving the issue

Brands are missing the point – it’s about the customer, not the brand.

Not taking care of customers is costing brands millions. A recent report by New Voice Media says companies are losing $62 billion per year through poor customer service.

Yet, providing social customer service lowers costs and increases revenues.

In Conversocial’s State of Social Customer Service Report, it stated that according to Gartner, it costs less than $1 per interaction on social, compared to $6 per phone call and $2.50-5 per email. And, according to research conducted by Eptica, Facebook and Twitter outperform email in both speed and accuracy of delivering responses.

When customers receive favorable service, advocacy increases. According to Convince & Convert, resolving an issue can increase advocacy by as much as 25% (versus not responding to an issue can decrease advocacy by as much as 50%).

According to Twitter, 76% of consumers are likely to recommend the brand following friendly service. Bain notes that when companies engage and respond to customers over social, those customers spend 20-40% more with them. McKinsey reports that companies that developed social care capabilities improved year-over-year revenue per contract by 6.7% through effective up-selling, cross-selling and customer churn reduction versus a 12.1% decline for those without that capability. And, according to Aberdeen, companies that have a well-crafted social customer service approach experience 92% customer retention.

Social Customer Service is a big deal. In fact, social customer service serves as an inflection point – it can determine whether a customer continues to do business with you, or decides not to do business with you at all!

Social Customer Service is that critical that Gartner believes that by 2020, 90% of customer service will occur through social media.

So what can companies do to include social customer service in their processes?

Show up and Be Active on Social Media.

If a brand is going to be on social media, it needs to be visible on social media. The brand needs to be active, constantly and consistently. Consumers need to see you and see that you care. Social media is not just about promotion. Listening, engaging with customers and would-be-customers and helping to answer questions, solve issues, etc. are important and should be more important than simply broadcasting or promoting yourself on social media.

According to Hosting Facts, as of March 2017, there were almost 4 billion Internet users. And, social media still ranks as the #1 online activity.

Brands must be where people are at. And, they must offer some type of social customer service. The sustainability of the brand depends on it.

Social Media is a quick reply platform. Consumers require quick responses. And social media enables brands to provide quick responses. In fact, consumers are more likely to connect with and recommend a brand which gives them a quick and effective response than a brand that gives them a slow and effective solution to their problem.

Make Social Customer Service a Valuable Piece of the Omni-Channel Customer Experience.

Customer-centric organizations find the best way to deliver a sound customer experience is through an omni-channel strategy. Omni-channel enables the customer to have the same experience at whichever channel they are in. It’s important because customers expect the same level of convenient, personalized, seamless experience wherever they are – be it online, mobile, online or in an actual store.

Throughout each stage of the customer journey, brands must deliver on quality and consistency. And to support this, brands must implement an omnichannel customer strategy. If social customer service is unavailable, the brand’s growth could be in jeopardy.

Aberdeen, in its research report, Omni-Channel Customer Care: Best-In-Class Steps to Success, states “companies that get omni-channel right achieve the ultimate balance. They improve the customer experience while driving operational excellence, which translates into reduced costs.”

Some highlights from the report include:

-Omni-channel contact centers achieve 55% greater annual improvement in the number of customer complaints.

-The use of effective omni-channel activities helps best- in-class organizations retain twice more of their clientele.

-Best-in-Class organizations are 30% more likely to align the entire business around the customer to ensure consistency and personalization.

Therefore, to have an omni-channel customer service, it is vital that social customer service be a valuable component.

Implement Best Practices To Make Social Customer Service Stick.

–Respond immediately.

Responsiveness is a big thing. Consumers want brands to respond immediately. In fact, Facebook Pages show a company’s response times to resolve issues.

The reality is social media implies immediacy, and customers expect it. And that means customer service needs to be up to the task of responding within minutes. Social Customer Service isn’t only about solving problems, it’s also an opportunity to connect authentically, engage, and leave a lasting positive impression that will drive loyalty.

Quick response and resolution will enhance the overall customer experience.

–Be consistent.

Consistency is one of the most important things to providing a great experience. It builds trust. It illustrates what customers can come to expect from a brand. Consistency also drives retention, loyalty, and advocacy, and helps you acquire new customers in the process.

–Personalize the experience.

Being authentic and showing empathy creates experiences that drive loyalty. You’ll be able to connect and engage on a deeper, more personal level and customers will leave feeling happy because you will have resolved issues timely and effectively.

–Be proactive.

Social customer service isn’t only about resolving issues timely and effectively. It’s also about anticipating needs and acting accordingly. Social Customer Service provides opportunities to do that. It provides a great opportunity to obtain customer feedback or offer tools to help customers be more successful. Brands should always be on the lookout for opportunities to drive customer value. Customers desperately want proactive customer service. NICE InContact reported a few years ago that 87% of respondents want companies to be proactive in their customer service initiatives.

–Share insights with other teams of the organization.

The information you obtain from engaging with customers is vital to be able to improve the customer experience. Thus, you should share insights with other groups of the organization so these insights can be acted on and improvements to existing organizational processes can be made to enhance customers’ experiences.

–Measure and monitor.

Measure the social customer service you’re providing through such metrics as customer satisfaction, customer effort, net promoter score and others. It’s important to not only measure but also to monitor and analyze trends so you can make improvements to enhance a customer’s experience.

Providing a good customer experience is a must. Having all tools at their disposal, including social customer service, will help brands create experiences customers want. Social Customer Service will help brands shape conversations by engaging customers before and after purchase, and drive customer value.

Sue Duris
Sue Duris is Director of Marketing and Customer Experience of M4 Communications, a Palo Alto, CA-based strategic marketing and customer experience consultancy that helps early and mid-stage startups, nonprofits and edtech firms build and grow their brands. She writes and speaks often on marketing and customer experience topics.


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