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Last week I hosted an Econsultancy roundtable discussion on social customer service.

There was initially some debate in the office over whether this topic would attract enough interest from our subscribers – wouldn’t it be better to focus specifically on something new and shiny like AI or chatbots?

However the event was hugely over-subscribed and attendees all had a lot to say on the subject, suggesting that social customer service remains a hot topic for marketers.

While all our roundtables operate under the Chatham House rule, meaning we don’t reveal who said what, I am able to give a broad overview of the topics we covered.

Equally I can say that attendees were all senior marketers from a range of sectors including travel, financial services, non-profits, B2B and FMCG.

I’ll get to the talking points after looking at some interesting stats on social customer service:

  • The biggest challenges inherent in customer expectations of social service are: customers expecting social teams to be integrated with other channels (43%), customers expecting a response in under 30 minutes (27%) and customers expecting ‘first contact’ resolution from the social team (30%).
  • Research conducted by Esteban Kolsky, CEO of ThinkJar, shows that 55% of requests for customer service on social are unacknowledged or unanswered.
  • Around 70% of social customer service enquiries occur because traditional service has failed to resolve the issue.

And now for those talking points (but don't forget to also check out our Social Customer Service Training Course).

CRM

To truly optimise the customer experience, businesses have to plug social data into their CRM. But there are numerous tech and budgetary barriers that prevent that from happening.

As a result, when people begin a conversation with a brand on social the customer service agent is often unaware of any previous interactions between that person and the company.

This means that the customer has to repeat themselves when explaining the problem or complaint, which can exacerbate the issue.

It also prevents the company from having a single view of their customers, meaning more advanced personalisation and automation techniques will never be an achievable goal.

On the flipside, some delegates said that customers often want to remain anonymous on social media, so it’s not necessarily a good idea to immediately reveal that you know exactly who they are.

Brands risk coming across as creepy if they match up an email complaint with a social media profile without first being prompted by the customer.

crm

Response times and other KPIs

The previous point on prioritisation ties nicely into another hot topic – response times.

There was a consensus of opinion that brands need to challenge their customer service teams to respond quickly to social media queries, though exact targets ranged from 15 minutes up to an hour.

One delegate said their business had seen an improvement in its Net Promoter Score after achieving a 15-minute response time, so there are tangible benefits to responding quickly.

Another important way of tracking performance is looking at the time to resolution, which just means the length of time it took to solve the customer’s query.

There’s no point being quick to respond if you don’t then follow through on the promise.

‘Can you DM us, please?’

Brands that deal with confidential customer information often have to invite the customer to a private messaging channel to abide by data protection laws.

This has three negative outcomes:

  • It annoys the customer by forcing them to switch channels.
  • The brand looks like it’s constantly trying to bury bad news by refusing to deal with complaints in public.
  • Positive outcomes don’t get shared on social.

While data protection means the first two outcomes are largely unavoidable, one delegate had had some success in mitigating the third issue.

The company had been trialling a system whereby social media queries would be routed to a live chat function, but once the issue was resolved the customer would be automatically bounced back to the social media platform.

This meant that the customer might be encouraged to share their positive experience with their followers.

While the test had only been running for a short period, early results were positive.

Bots!

Bots have been big news recently, with some major brands creating bots in messenger apps to deal with basic customer service queries or product orders.

We’ve previously written about how brands are using chatbots, with KLM’s use of AI in social customer service being particularly noteworthy.

While none of the delegates had yet branched out into using bots, there was an acknowledgement that this is where the future likely lies.

That said, delegates felt there would always be a need for human customer service agents alongside the bots.

How to prioritise queries?

This is an issue that’s obviously more important for businesses that receive a high number of queries.

People who ask a question via social tend to want a speedy answer, but those who have a serious complaint (or have loads of followers) need to be bumped to the front of the queue.

Each business will have their own criteria for which queries need to be prioritised, and opinions were split over which tool was best for the job.

One delegate spoke highly of Clarabridge’s ticketing system, though others were less positive.

Overall there was little consensus over which tool was most effective, and again it will come down the business’s requirements and budget.

Who should social sit with?

Delegates were keen to discuss who dealt with social customer service in other companies, and it quickly became clear there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Logically one would assume it sits with the customer service team, however it is often left up to digital, marketing or even editorial teams to answer queries that come in via social.

This can mean that customer service queries have to be passed on to a different team for resolution, which increases the workload and can lead to delays in resolving problems.

One delegate said they felt that social customer service was inherently different to traditional customer service as users have different expectations.

As such, it requires digital skills that some traditional customer service teams do not possess (yet).

Another delegate said their company had a distributed model of customer service, where different teams are empowered to do their own customer service. The digital team is then in charge of training and quality control.

Ultimately it depends on the type of queries the company receives as well as the quantity. If a company receives a handful of queries per day via social then they can likely be dealt with by the marketing or digital team. 

However in cases where companies receive hundreds or even thousands of queries per day, then there needs to be a dedicated team with robust processes in place.

For more on this topic, read our post on seven guiding principles for implementing social customer service.

David Moth

Published 21 November, 2016 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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