Companies no longer control the terms of engagement with customers for service and support. It is customers who initiate conversations, using whichever channel they find most comfortable or convenient. More and more, the channels they choose to use are social media platforms. Telecoms are in high demand for social care with 426,451 questions asked via Facebook and 523,825 questions asked on Twitter, as reported by Social Bakers for Q4 2013. Telecom companies had response rates of 75.3% on Facebook, but only 53.5% of questions were responded to on Twitter, demonstrating that Telecoms have work to do to improve their social media customer care processes and workflows.
But companies must realize that it’s not just about adding social channels into the support mix, but about becoming sociable in line with expectations related to the channel. While most customers expect a response to an inquiry made on social platforms within an hour, companies are missing the mark. The average response time on Twitter is 11 hours and 15 minutes, and an entire day for Facebook posts.
A recent survey conducted by Google Consumer Surveys found that more than 70% of the total social media-based customer care and brand contacts made over the past year were conducted on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The two top reasons cited for social media care interactions were to provide positive feedback or suggestions (31%) and related to concerns regarding a product or service (30%).
The demographic most loyal to social care is urban customers that range in age from 18 to 34 years of age with incomes that range from $50k to $74k. However, when all the participants were asked, “If you knew your customer service issue would be resolved regardless of contact channel, which would be your preferred contact method?” 25% of them selected social media care.
According to OnePollResearch, 65% of consumers believe social media is a better way to communicate than through a phone call with a customer service agent. While social customer care is growing as a service channel, it does require careful thought and planning to execute well from the contact center. Forrester Research finds that 67% of companies believe that social customer service is growing in importance, and is the most pressing short-term priority for contact centers. The time to develop competency and social interaction skills must be put front and center if Telecoms are to excel at delivering on customer expectations.
Building Your Social Customer Care Team
There are a number of challenges with providing excellent social customer care, including:
- Sifting through the clutter of posts to identify customer service issues
- Tracking multiple private and public messages from a customer can be confusing
- Developing efficient approval workflows in order to speed up issue resolution
- Avoiding mistakes in a public arena that could result in a crisis of communication
But the payoff for building the right team can be tremendous, including reduced costs and the ability to service more customers than phone agents over the same time period.
When selecting your social customer care team, it’s important to adjust your criteria to include the skills required of a frontline, public-facing employee, as well as the traditional skills required for a phone-based agent.
Social media posts have heavy volume. Your social customer care agents need to be able to handle a high velocity of activity, while maintaining the ability to effectively communicate through text, matching the tone that will resonate with the customer in response to the content of each post. The fast-moving nature of social customer care also requires that the agents you select are confident enough to trust their instincts, as well as curious enough to learn how to make adjustments and continuous improvements with each service interaction.
It’s recommended that a social customer care team only work in the social channel during their shift. This reduces the confusion that can result in mistakes while switching between the requirements of different channels. Of course this also means that it will be difficult to scale for volume fluctuations. To resolve this issue, study ticket patterns and align regular shifts with high volume time patterns. Additionally, by cross training agents, you can develop the opportunity to rotate agents between shifts on social care and shifts in traditional channels, easing the stress. Cross training also enables you to shift agents from traditional channels into social care if volume spikes and requires additional coverage.
Processes to Calm the Chaos from All the Social Chatter
To streamline processes and remove complexity, analyze the volume of tickets and create a categorization framework to help you assess drivers and the effort required for resolution. Categories include complaints, inquiries, trouble reports, sales opportunities, and positive mentions.
Next, identify the parameters for labeling severity tiers that divide posts into high-priority and general buckets based on context. High-priority severity includes high frustration, ready to leave, extreme dissatisfaction, but also indications that a potential sale is imminent. General severity includes informational questions and product and support queries, for example.
Additionally, make sure to bucket only actionable posts. General usage, ads, reviews and news, as well as compliments are not actionable and therefore should be the last addressed, with some of them not necessarily requiring a response from the contact center. Non-actionable posts can be routed to marketing for follow-up and response.
Technology is available that enables automatic post categorization to streamline the process of sorting through the posts. Agents may then apply manual calibration in the organization of the buckets in their queues based on interpretation of severity.
Integrating Social Customer Care with Other Channels
Social customer care should not be implemented as a standalone channel. In fact, it offers a great opportunity to educate customers about self-service options that can further deflect operational costs and volume from the contact center. Additionally, social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook may not always be the most efficient channels to achieve effective issue resolution. You’ll need to have a plan for which types of “call” drivers should be shifted to another channel, as well as to satisfy the customer with a meaningful reason to make the transition. Value should be provided in each and every social customer care interaction, even if the outcome is to transition the customer to a channel more suitable for solving their problem.
It is also important to develop a collaborative relationship with marketing colleagues, as well as workflows and processes for routing notifications that are meant for a marketing response, rather than a customer care interaction. Since it’s likely that marketing owned social media prior to your organization’s establishment of a social customer care program, effective communication is critical to a coordinated brand presence on social media platforms.
The Time to Develop Competency in Social Customer Care is Now
Even though it’s likely that the phone will remain as a critical channel for customer care, delaying the implementation of social customer care will not work in your favor. The number of questions being asked on social media alone should offer proof that the time for social care has come.
Social customer care requires careful thought and planning and a highly tuned understanding of the nuances and expectations of customers using social media platforms in search of support and service. Working with a contact center provider that has developed expertise in serving customers through social channels can expedite your organization’s ability to achieve operational effectiveness. Expanding service and support into new channels can bring vibrancy to customer relationships and improve loyalty. That more customers can be served in less time can also bring operational efficiencies and reduced costs. But more importantly, proactive service offered through social channels can also contribute to sales at the moment a customer is making the decision to buy.