Playing the customer service social media game to win


Much has been written about using social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, for customer service – especially as social, unlike traditional customer care channels, offers an almost instant two-way communication.

“However, in the majority of South African organisations, social channels are not owned by contact centres, but by marketing departments who utilise them for campaigns and use sophisticated tools to measure the response on these,” says Ebrahim Dinat, COO of South African customer experience solutions provider, Ocular Technologies.

By the end of 2016, Facebook revealed that it had 1,86 billion monthly active users alone. According to Omnicore, Twitter had 317 million active users in January 2017, sending 500 million tweets per day. A fun fact is that Twitter can handle up to 18 quintillion user accounts. Of significance is that JD Power found that two-thirds of users are now using social media platforms for customer service, and Gartner has observed that that failure to respond via social media channels can lead to a 15 percent churn rate for existing customers.

Failure to respond to social media can be classed within the same category as ignoring a phone call or e-mail from a customer. “Added to this is that exchanges occurring on social media need to happen faster – potential and current customers and friends are watching too, and often adding their own opinions and sharing statuses,” says Dinat.

Mike Schneider, director of Growth for Conversocial, states: “Millions of people are taking service issues to social media channels as their preferred communication route. These questions and complaints are public, and the only real question for businesses is ‘how’ - not ‘if’ - they will respond. Listening is no longer an end, but rather a means to evaluating where you need to engage.”

For both marketing and contact centre, the social platform is the ideal stage to enhance customer engagement, but who then in the business should own social channels? And, how can marketing and the contact centre work together?

Shilpa Puri, senior channel manager at Aspect, an Ocular Technologies’ partner company, says: “Some organisations have responded by taking the customer service component of social out of marketing and placing it within their customer contact centres. Marketing still retains outbound social responsibility, and the campaigns and lead generation going along with that. Customer service then takes charge of inbound social, including lead generation and customer service queries and complaints.”

She notes that this shift of responsibility has lead to new confusions. “How are customer service responsibilities divided with the contact centre? Not all agents have the skills to deal with the rapid fire – and very public – exchanges that come with social media. So while modern contact centre software and platforms are adept at combining social with the traditional contact centre strengths of phone and e-mail, not every agent is going to be good at social,” she adds.

One response, Puri says, is to set up a dedicated social team within the contact centre. “A social agent can deal with social queries, but must also work closely with other, non-social, agents to ensure a consistent customer experience. That’s because, although social is the avenue for many initial customer service queries, dealing with them appropriately generally means having to take the interaction private, or into another two way channel, such as voice,” she says.

Puri concludes that the answer to who owns social is two-fold. “Marketing can retain its outbound responsibilities, while customer service takes care of inbound. The trick, for any customer service organisation, is ensuring that the customer has a consistent experience, and their query or complaint is dealt with in a fast and effective manner.”

“And, this is the crux of it,” adds Dinat. “Accelerated speed of response with a complete focus on the customer. If social media within a company is seen as belonging to the customer who just wants to be assisted, teams can be put in place to effectively engage with the customer and do what’s best for the customer.”

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