Customer Service Through Social Media

“Like all technology, social media is neutral but is best put to work in the service of building a better world.” – Simon Mainwaring

Everyone in every field is operating at full stretch. The corporate realm is no different as they are balancing cost efficiency while still having to provide the kind of customer service that exceeds the ever rising bar. This is the quintessential challenge for any company which they must strive towards or face being wiped out. The companies that are at the top with regard to highly potent and efficacious customer service techniques must also continue to maintain a balance between cost effectiveness and consistently great customer experiences. It is therefore apparent that companies that want to succeed and remain in business will need to re-look at their processes and strive to attain this balance. There are companies that operate very efficiently on-line and seldom have actual people contacting their customers and yet provide great customer service.

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In order to avoid the financial stretching, companies that run on traditional methods must earnestly look at altering their processes and invest in technology. The focus of course must remain on being able to maintain a personal relationship with every customer. This is becoming vital since while customers do want faster and more efficient service, they also want the personal touch. The future of customer service seems to be moving towards self-service with a personal touch. Whether customers access information, look up new launches, or use tools like decision trees for troubleshooting technical problems – self-service seems to be the way to go. This allows the customer service offered by a company to be more expansive and inclusive. Crowd service, meaning customers helping other customers on-line, not only retains the personal aspect but gives the power of resolution directly to the customer, through whose experience another customer may benefit. Social media is such a platform and it has helped to dramatically change the face of customer service.

“Technology and social media have brought power back to the people.”- Mark McKinnon

The progression of how customers have been serviced has been phenomenal as is – moving from calling or walking in to email, on-line chats and now the biggest of all social media. Companies that have mastered the art of customer service through social media are more successful than the ones still struggling to keep up with the demands of this new multi-channel world. According to an Oracle Report in 2012, 46% of the on-line customers want and expect companies to provide customer service through social media channels, but only 23% were currently doing so.

The prime reason for this gap seems to be that companies are unable to effectively map and measure the efficacy of their customer service over social media channels. The break neck speed at which social media is being adopted for customer service and the transfer of conversations between the different social channels makes it tough to allocate costs and profits from any one in particular. Customers expect that companies will respond to them through the social media channel of their choice and hence demand that all the customer service relevant information is available on all such channels. Companies do not have a choice but to comply. Finding the best way to manage their customer service effectiveness – be it on-line chats, detailed diagrammatic troubleshooting documents like decision trees or other methods – companies must be able to find a balance. They should find a way to measure exactly how much they are spending and whether the costs justify the efficiency of their customer service staff in achieving the business objectives for sustained growth. Even though social media is being slated as the next big thing, companies cannot randomly use it unless they can continue to refine their processes, measure the outcomes and quantify the returns. It is not as simple as counting numbers of likes or followers since they do not provide data on how to improve business processes with a customer focus. This requires certain yardsticks and standards to be defined.
Some parameters that should be considered are:

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– The percentage of incoming queries that the customer service representative responds to in the specified turnaround time
– How much time the representative is spending on social media queries during the time allocated
– In the time allocated for social media queries, what percent of queries or posts don’t get responded to or even looked at
– The number of relevant social media messages that every company must respond to in an allocated number of hours
– The number of unsolicited messages sent by customer service agents to customers on the social media. This would define business development business activities

These ideas are meant to point you in the right direction and are not exhaustive. Companies must decide what will work most effectively for them and consistently work towards innovating and improving with time. For example, instead of measuring daily, the percentage of queries answered over social media, companies could break it down to an hourly report to improve turnaround time. Companies must remember to measure the responses of their customer service agents both in terms of quality and effectiveness.

a) How many or what percent of first post resolutions over social media are being provided?
b) The quality of the outgoing communication from the customer service agent. Is it readable and understandable?
c) How many customer queries redirect them to a one-on-one conversation either through on-line troubleshooting or speaking with a customer to resolve a problem via more structured documents like decision trees?
d) What percentage of queries must be forwarded to other departments for a response and which departments they are being forwarded to?
e) What is the extent of reach your company has – measured by the number of customers that subscribe or follow the posts and resolutions from your company and how likely they are to re-post or forward them?
f) How many customers are likely to spread a good word about your company and the customer service received? This can be calculated by mapping the feedback received in customer surveys.
g) How many customers are providing repeat business despite the same offerings being available elsewhere? This is the customer loyalty index.

Measuring customer responses through these measures of service and quality over social media can help companies to prioritize responses and judiciously allocate the scarce resource of good quality customer service representative. The impact of great customer service over social media is bound to have far reaching and bottom line affecting consequences and hence must be managed astutely.

Using technology to advantage and automating information gathering and calculating the impact of your service is the hallmark of sensible companies. Even if you outsource your social media customer care, the third party must monitor all the metrics to provide an overall view of how well your customer service is functioning and in which areas you can cut costs or reallocate resources. Whatever you choose to do, it is crucial now to consistently engage with customers via social media. Customers that have embraced technology are demanding that this happen and also that the customer service agents are multi-skilled able to answer the most basic queries all the way up to being able to manage complex troubleshooting or decision tree ‘walk-through’. No one is waiting around or willing to suffer fools any more. As companies become more efficient in servicing customers via social media, they will notice an increase in the spending patterns of their customers with them. According to Bain & Company, Management Consulting Services Company – customers spend 20-40% more on companies that engage with them via social media. That is something to think about and act on immediately!

“Social media is here. It’s not going away; not a passing fad. Be where your customers are: in social media.”- Lori Ruff

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