There’s no question that today’s business leaders realize the importance that social media plays in their company’s strategic initiatives, but many may not grasp the significant implications that social media can have on their organization’s ability to deliver customer service.
Through our own work with clients on the topic of social customer service (or what we call “social care”), there are three questions we consistently hear across industries:
- Are consumers really turning to social media for customer service?
- What is the impact of positive/negative social care performance on my brand/company?
- How should I begin to implement or enhance existing social care efforts?
This blog post is the first in a series of three, and focuses on analyzing who is actually using social media to reach out to brands and companies with customer service issues.
Based on findings from NM Incite’s newly released State of Social Customer Service Report, we know that nearly half of all social media users (47%) use social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to reach out to a brand or company with a question or issue. Social care use is especially high among younger age groups, and still remains significant among older social media users.
The decision to have a social media presence is synonymous with offering social care – if a customer is able to contact your company via branded Twitter or Facebook pages, then they will expect a rapid response to their questions and complaints. What’s more, even if your company does not have a branded presence, consumers may still post issues and complaints across non-branded sites, and expect the same quick and effective service response.
In addition to high overall usage rates, nearly 1 in 10 social care users reach out to a brand or company on a daily basis, an additional 21% engage on a weekly basis, and a further 21% do so a few times a month. This frequency is especially striking given that social media customer service was non-existent four years ago, and today many people engage with social care as an ongoing habit. Furthermore, compare this high social care incidence to usage rates for traditional customer service channels, such as a call center. Do consumers typically call a customer service phone number on a daily basis? In most cases, the answer is no.
Understanding that customer service interactions are inherently more frequent on social media compared to other platforms is incredibly important for brands and companies – especially because very active social care users are likely to have a far-reaching social graph as well as the desire and ability to significantly impact a brand’s perception by sharing their positive (or negative) customer experiences with others.
So what is it about social media that makes consumers want to engage with companies about service issues on a frequent basis? Perhaps it’s the ease of access (consumers already spend a significant part of their day interacting with social media), or the lack of having to wait on hold or navigate through a confusing series of phone prompts in order to actually reach a human customer service rep. Regardless of the individual motivations for use, we know that roughly one in three social media users actually prefer social care compared to phone customer service.
This high incidence and preference for social care compared to traditional customer service will have significant implications for all customer-facing companies, and raises multiple questions about scope, resourcing and employee training, and overall customer service strategy. Here’s what you need to consider in each of these three areas:
- Social Care Scope – If you are a global brand or company, do you offer 24/7 customer service across multiple languages, like KLM airlines (@KLM)? Or do you follow the example of Citibank (@AskCiti), and limit active customer service to one language during specific hours of the day? Do you provide customer service on Twitter and Facebook, or create a dedicated platform just for customer service (versus other marketing/branding initiatives)? Answering these questions takes deliberate, data-driven, in-depth analysis, and a thorough understanding of your customer’s social care needs. Companies need to assess their landscape and develop a staged plan for launching a social media customer service program.
- Resourcing & Employee Training – How do you staff and train your employees for this new world of customer service? Do you empower all employees to actively monitor and respond to branded and unbranded conversations? Or do you limit these responses to trained members of a “social care team?” Moreover, what internal (or third party) skill-sets are required to develop and ensure ongoing success of social care efforts? For example, I recently spoke on a panel at New York Advertising Week that was focused on “leveraging big data,” and many attendees asserted that their organizations simply did not have the internal resources to make sense of the huge amount of social media data they collect, let alone develop a sound social care strategy or measure the impact of their online customer service efforts. Creating internal buy-in in order to hire, train and effectively support your social care team is an essential first step, most effectively supported through a fact-based and compelling “business case for social care.”
- Overall Customer Service Strategy – Is offering social care likely to increase the total number of customer service queries because more customers feel empowered to reach out through social media? And what is the implication on lifetime customer value and ongoing cost to serve? Where should social care sit within your overall customer service offering – within operations, marketing, or as a separate entity? As an organization, should you encourage customers to reach out via social care, or still maintain an offline support presence? In the past, service operations have typically not been the most dynamic and innovative area of a business – but we’re seeing a major shift in consumer behavior that will require significant change to the way service operations does business.
Simply put, it’s obvious that social care is becoming commonplace among social media users. Social care cannot be viewed as a siloed effort or a passing fad – it’s here to stay and must be integrated within your company’s overall customer service strategy.
Is your company engaging in social care? What challenges or successes have you experienced?
NM Incite’s 2012 Social Customer Service Report.