The opening night of the 2012 Social Media Success Summit featured a power-packed session by Jeremiah Owyang and his research on how advanced companies use social media. One of the questions after his presentation asked how to handle the escalation process in social media that can turn frustrated customers into an angry mob.
Owyang assured listeners that there are four levels of customer intervention, and if handled properly, they can create solutions without dedicating social media resources to customer service.
1. Level One: Well-designed FAQ sections on websites and other media. If Frequently Asked Question sections are up front, visible, and easily navigated, customers can often get answers to many problems without having to pick up the phone, send an angry email, or head to Twitter to complain.
2. Level Two: Design a community that answers its own questions. This could take the shape of a forum or message board. Many companies have successful ones such as American Express OPEN and CreateSpace, the e-book publishing arm of Amazon. CreateSpace actually has a number of different forums accessed from their home page under the tab "Free Publishing Resources." One simple one-time login is required to post a question on any of their forums. Many companies use forums to encourage customers to resource each other's experience to solve problems.
3. Level Three: Dedicated customer advocacy. Here, loyal customers selected and trained by the company are empowered to answer questions from customers, and many of the systems offer reward points for participation. Owyang cited systems by Walmart, Texas Instruments, and others.
4. Level Four: Company employees answer customer questions. At the highest level of interaction, companies have trained employees that answer customer concerns. There are a number of different product solutions in this category, or companies can devise a social media strategy such as Best Buy's Twelp Force to tackle customer service.
The first answer to customer service isn't always to answer every question and comment you get in social media directly. Before you dedicate internal resources to customer service concerns in the social media space, consider employing the above strategies. Customer service via social media isn't a requirement, but it is an option.