Q and A: Benefits of Social Customer Service

Posted on May 21st 2012

Q and A: Benefits of Social Customer Service

The ability of service organizations to operationalize social media to optimize traditional support channels will no doubt be a powerful variable in long term customer satisfaction. Recently I had the opportunity to interview Catarina Centeno Duarte, Online Marketing Manager for Altitude Software on the importance of social customer service adoption by industry leaders. Continue reading to view her insightful answers.

62% of consumers have used social media for customer service issues. Zendesk.com

What are the benefits of social customer service for the customer? I believe social customer service makes our lives easier. We all are aware that the customer’s behavior towards customer service is changing. Customers now have a wide range of self-service resources such as online communities, blogs, social networks, and Q&A sections that most of the times are used as the first source to try and find answers to their issues, complaints, and doubts.  Sometimes, customer support is only contacted as a "cry for help," as I normally say. In the end, and in the customer’s perspective, social media brings a wide range of emerging channels that can be used to solve issues quicker and more efficiently.

What are the benefits of social customer service for the company? I recently attended a presentation from a global mobile telecom company that talked about the impact of self-care customer support in their contact center operations. The practical result was that they had a decrease in number of calls handled and an increase in handling time and customer satisfaction. Why? The only calls that reached the call center were the most important and that were worth spending time with.

If investing in social customer service, companies can target their best efforts to valuable interactions and to creating excellent customer experiences.

How important is it to monitor customer activity on social media? In today’s social reality, customers do not forgive negative experiences from any company. We are getting much more demanding and we know that we have more power than we've had before. If something goes wrong we know that we can turn to our social media channels, and spread the word. And our peers will listen. Many studies say that people take recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues very seriously.

If companies are not monitoring, they will be far more exposed. People will talk about you whether you’re there or not. This is what happens. It's also interesting to see that the WOW factor is also present. People who get answers from companies, via social media, can sometimes be surprised and they will also share the good experience (I have done that!).

It will be more difficult for companies to control damages coming from social media than avoid them. Integrating social media monitoring into contact center operations could simply be added as a new channel — a new interaction to handle (as they do with voice, email or chat).

"In my opinion, companies should try and find the social enthusiasts and capitalize on their "natural skills" complementing their training with company guidelines."

Will employees require additional training to successfully engage with social customers? Definitely! Engaging with customers via online or social media channels requires specific skills that probably most agents don't have yet. The tone of the conversation, the approach is clearly different if we are dealing with a phone call, or an email, or answering a Tweet.  In my opinion, companies should try and find the social enthusiasts and capitalize on their "natural skills," complementing their training with company guidelines.

Will traditional customer service channels eventually go away? No, absolutely not! I have come across different studies about the State of Social Customer Service. One of them mentions that the number of people searching online to solve customer service issues is 57%. However the same people said they would like to have a company’s contact number easier to find (68%).

I believe the volume of interactions in traditional channels may decrease over time (especially because younger generations today will prefer emerging channels, and they are the future customer service users) but won't disappear. There are, for example, specific issues that can only be treated by phone or email (privacy issues).

Bottom-line: Your customers are participating in social media. They are talking, they are praising, they are complaining. If your company does not currently have a social service presence – it is likely your customers will turn to a competitor who is proactively monitoring mentions of not only their company but also your brand name.



Rachel Miller

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