Social Support Best Served by Customer Care

“For organizations that use social media to promote their products, responding to inquiries via social media channels will be the new minimum level of response expected.” Carol Rozwell, VP and analyst at Gartner ups the ante with her prediction that, “The dissatisfaction stemming from failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15 percent increase in churn rate for existing customers.”

Social support, done well, requires a different level of commitment and skill sets than marketing on social networks—especially when technical support is involved. Where marketing hopes customers will respond to their content marketing efforts, customers expect companies to respond ASAP to their needs. And it’s not just being responsive, but about meeting the expectations of a customer in the context of service which is different than the context of a “social” conversation.

Providing social support requires:

  • Access to the customer database that marketing may not have
  • Knowledge about products and services that can be applied skillfully to resolve issues
  • Recording the interaction in the customer database as part of their transaction history
  • Establishing and incorporating a workflow for issue management from non-traditional channels
  • Marketing is not structured, skilled or prioritized for customer support interactions. Social support must be an integrated component of the overall support and service structure to be effective at improving customer satisfaction, sentiment and loyalty. Putting this responsibility under the umbrella of marketing is short sighted and can lead to a lack of quality, consistency and predictability needed to provide great experiences that increase brand reputation along with customer happiness.

However, coordination with marketing and PR is essential. If a negative support trend is showing the potential to escalate, communication in the channel should be swift and appropriate. By arming marketing and PR teams with this insight to help them prepare, social support can play an important and proactive role in guarding brand integrity without over burdening the marketing and PR functions.

Social Support through the Contact Center

When implementing social support, consider the expertise and skill sets brought by your contact center vendor. As complaints and issues initiated on social media channels will often need to be resolved in another channel that’s appropriate to the nature of the complaint, the more seamless this process can be made for customers, the more satisfying the experience. Examples include, escalating from social to chat, phone or email; or moving the dialogue into a customer service portal or forum.

All of these channels must be managed, monitored and facilitated in response to customer needs and preferences for a social support initiative to be effective. The expertise of your contact center vendor can help to determine how your brand is represented by creating an initiative that takes into consideration listening, response strategy and workflow.

  • Listening: Understanding what is said about your brand online and the support that customers need requires monitoring for topics, phrases, locations, competitors and sentiment. This function will need to be adaptive to changing market trends and customer activity.
  • Response Strategy: Engagement can vary from answering questions to resolving escalation by facilitating resolution. But improvement will also rely on data analysis and extracting insights that can aid in encouraging participation.
  • Workflow: The complexity of a support channel includes designing processes for queues, escalations, meeting service level agreements (SLAs), transfers and adhering to policies. Additional considerations include levels of expertise required in specific cases, whether to resolve publically or privately and evaluating the level of viral risk.

The level of structure and planning applied is similar to enabling customer service excellence in traditional channels; it’s the approach and rules of engagement that vary.

Social Support Intervention in Community Forums

Let’s take community forums, for example. Many companies establish forums and then step back, expecting that limited intervention is necessary. This is actually counter-intuitive. You wouldn’t pay to have your garden landscaped and then step back and see it decline into a wilderness over the next two years, would you? Regular work is involved to get the weeds out and keep it looking good. Company forums are like running a big house garden, with a head gardener and then workers specializing in certain aspects to maintain and develop it.

Forums and communities are all about participation and engagement, so the Moderator role is both a relationship manager and enforcer. Building and managing relationships with key members, the ones that contribute the most, as well as with the general population of contributors by doing things like welcoming newcomers, pushing for posts to be flagged as answered, and moving posts to the correct forum for the topic.

One of the most dispiriting aspects of looking for help in a forum is finding a thread that might contain the answer to your question, only to find that it spreads over 24 pages and covers 2 years. So nurturing relationships and tending to the posts and threads is very important. And, of course, in an open environment there have to be rules governing behaviour, language, and content. Without this the mob soon rules. Not good for the brand and not attractive to people looking for support.

The Responder role is different from the moderator, and most like a technical or customer service agent. Instead of dealing with a queue of work, they are combing the forums looking unanswered posts that may be too difficult for the community, requiring an answer by the responder or to be taken private because resolution needs a one-to-one engagement. The responder is also looking out for misinformation – where an answer has been given that is incorrect, or could cause harm. The aim is that a good answer is given in every case.

Presenting a United Front for Technical Support

As you can see in the above example of the roles needed to support a community forum, support professionals are the best suited to create and sustain a seamless process across social channels. In fact, for one of our clients, 40% to 50% of posts are being whisked into private conversation for resolution. Utilizing the expertise of your contact center provider to roll out and provide social support will present a consistent experience for your customers across channels.

Social support delivers business value in several ways:

  • 40% of unresolved complaints through social media resulted in phone calls that will result in increased cost to serve
  • 71% of those who experience positive social customer care are likely to recommend that brand to others, compared to just 19% of customers that don’t get a response
  • Customers will spend 21% more if they receive good customer service via social media

Choosing how you deploy your social support initiatives can play an important role in brand reputation, customer satisfaction and lowering support costs. Considering the value of your contact center vendor provider’s expertise is a wise choice to ensure seamless customer support experiences—especially when successful resolution can require transferring amongst channel options. Avoiding that 15% of customer churn predicted by Gartner should also factor into your choice.

Nick Sellers

Author Nick Sellers

Nick Sellers is the Senior Director of Strategy & Marketing at SYKES. An outsourced contact center and customer experience veteran with almost 30 years of understanding and satisfying the needs of companies and their customers, Nick focuses on customer service through online channels (chat, social media, community forums, self-help) and support solutions for technology sector companies. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or on my personal blog at www.journey2excellence.com.

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