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CSPs Can’t Afford to Let Social Media “Just Happen”

Changes to customer needs and preferences are nonstop, including the adoption of social media. Many communication service providers (CSPs) have been slow to adopt social media and instead have resorted to letting it happen. This has resulted in taking a reactive approach that doesn’t reflect well on the brand or subscriber relationships. According to an IBM Institute for Business Value study, 85% of CSP respondents reported they were underprepared for the required cultural changes and two-thirds are unsure about the impact social business will have on their organizations.

Part of the hesitation on the part of CSPs is the concern that social brings with it more risk than opportunity. However, choosing to take a wait and see attitude hasn’t proved prudent as social media has involved their companies whether they like it or not. Unfortunately, those CSPs that have allowed social media to “happen” to them have been forced into reactive mode, rather than approached social media with a more responsive approach.

Refusing to change is equivalent to commercial suicide. Customers expect the companies they do business with to at least keep pace, if not stay ahead. But with social, they also expect personalized responsiveness—and they expect it quickly.

The Difference between Social for Marketing and Social for Service

Marketing for CSPs is often focused on the growth of new customer acquisition. If marketing is in charge of all social media efforts, then customers can find themselves feeling less understood, and therefore less valued by the company. Social business offers the opportunity for marketing and customer service to join forces and complete the circle of the relationship lifecycle by catering to the needs of different stages of the customer lifecycle.

But there are other opportunities. For example, working with your contact center vendor can help you to not only devise a social and online communications program for existing customers, but help CSPs to mitigate the risk of threats that is holding many of them back.

  • One example is a pharmaceutical company with a listening program to escalate any reports of adverse reactions to a drug to a special department
  • Another is to escalate a complaint posted by a user with a Klout score above a certain level for executive attention
  • The problem with limiting your social media program to marketing is that they have limited capability to handle certain types of discussions that may be raised by customers; a technical issue being one of them. For CSPs to truly become the transparent and social entities that customers are demanding, a broader approach must be taken.

Relevance is a Determinant of Success

Different social platforms require different approaches. Context is a key contributor for relevance and acceptance of a company’s social postings. A community forum for customers is not the appropriate format for marketing messages, for example. Customers come to a community for information and answers to questions they have about services and devices. They do not come to a forum to be marketed to. In fact, that type of messaging is off context and will be seen as self-serving for the company.

When a customer poses a question on Twitter, they expect an answer that makes sense. If they don’t get one, they may become critical of the company through additional tweets. If their criticism draws attention, company response can easily become reactive and defensive. When this occurs, the result can quickly become an escalation spurring on detractors rather than a means to defuse the situation quickly and quietly. Care must be taken.

Construct a Customer Program for Social Service

Despite the fact that social media demands CSPs have a presence, developing brand awareness and marketing to prospects is not enough. Customers will require attention – beyond what marketing can support. The bright side is that serving customers through social can reduce the number of more expensive calls to the contact center, raise your Net Promoter Score, and positively influence those considering becoming your customers.

Your contact center vendor is agile when it comes to change. It supports many types of different programs in the communications industry and others and has the experience to help you manage for opportunity and manage for risk. Contact center vendors:

  • Know how to train agents and help them progress toward social customer service
  • Can help you to develop Rules of Engagement to guide the program appropriately
  • Can design workflows for escalation to PR, Corporate or special departments based on the definition of parameters for specific situations
  • Can “listen” to the dialogue posted by customers and help to design response plans for risk scenarios or mine them for product development insights
  • Based on the call drivers in the contact center, they can also help you to implement a plan for social posting that can answer questions before customers call – to reduce volume and costs.

Social Customer Service Provides More Opportunities than Risks

Social media is here to stay. As you read this article, more of your customers are making use of the platforms. CSPs can either take a proactive path to improve customer experience and relationships by using the expertise of their contact center vendors, or they can get started on their own. Waiting to see and reacting after the fact will not bring the level of success CSPs need to compete effectively as Internet companies strive to grab market share.

Taking a considered and planned approach to develop a response and engagement plan to serve customers will help to reduce the risks encountered if social media is left to “just happen.” The most obvious point is that your customers expect you to be present in the channels they frequent. Not being there just ripens the opportunity for criticism. And who needs that?