Social Customer Service 2015: Story of the Day

Our Social Times hosted the second annual Social Customer Service Summit in London on 30th April/1st May 2015 with speakers from Sky, BT, Microsoft, Virgin Media and O2,...

social customer service summit

Our Social Times hosted the second annual Social Customer Service Summit in London on 30th April/1st May. Here’s a summary of the day…

social customer service summit

Our goal for #SCSS15 was to explore the rise of social customer service and the increasing convergence across multiple digital channels. With this in mind I kicked off the day with some statistics from a 2014 ICMI report:

  • 68% of companies now say social is a necessary service channel
  • 58% of companies say social customer service increases customer loyalty
  • 38% feel they will lose customers if they don’t offer social support
  • 55% say that social customer service is a competitive differentiator

These give some insight into the mindset of brands as customers are increasingly turning to social media for support. Adding to this some additional statistics taken from recent brand statements that show the momentum of change

  • Air France now has over 200 specialist social customer service agents
  • Electronics giant, Philips, says it covers over 100 languages 24/7 on social media
  • Comcast just announced it’s trebling it’s social customer service team…

…it’s clear we’re in the middle of a step-change in customer communications that is as important for businesses as it is for customers.

The conference boasted an A-list speaker line up of social CS practitioners, including Chris Geddes, Global Director of Social Media & Customer Support at Microsoft, Dr Nicola Millard, Customer Experience Futurologist at BT, Sharon Reeves, Director of eService at Sky and Martin Hill-Wilson, author of Delivering Effective Social Customer Service at Brainfood.

First up was Martin Hill-Wilson, who gave us a picture of the near future – where social customer service converges with other digital channels. He explained how social, driven by brands that prioritise ’empathy’ on Twitter, balances the potentially dehumanising effect of technology-driven customer service. He also suggested “there’s no such thing as legacy technology”. Consumers continue to use almost every channel – from email to chat, videos, apps, forums and social networks – without dropping any of them.

Next we had the energetic and fiercely logical Dr. Nicola Millard, who urged us not to believe everything we read – especially supposed trends in consumer usage of social media. She’s just published the findings of her second big survey of social customer service enquiries and she warned us against believing that customers get a faster response on social media (it really depends on their issue), that customers want ‘self serve’ communities (they’ll use them, but they actually just want their problem fixed), that brands should feel the need to respond to every query (many probably don’t warrant a response).

@DrNicola also noted the number of queries her survey picked up had grown 400% since her last study in 2011 and that the retail industry gets by far the most social media enquiries. Her report will be published next week – so follow her (or us) on Twitter to see the full figures.

Our next speaker, Emma Raben provided an amazing case study about implementing social CS within AIB, the Irish banking group. Overcoming a strong institutional reluctance to change customer support processes, to empower front-line staff to take decisions and break down the hierarchy to ensure key decisions could be taken quickly, her team has won multiple awards for social CS. Her advice for other financial institutions starting out in social media: “take compliance with you on your journey!

Changing service structures

We then indulged in a 1-hour roundtable session, with table Hosts including J-P De Clerck (i-Scoop), Sophie Crossely (We Are Social) and Danielle Sheerin (Bright Futures). Participants debated the key issues facing social CS teams and posted their findings up onto the walls. [I’ll share photos of these when I get them].

The final morning session at SCSS15 was another insight into the workings of a very large organisation: Sky. Sharon Reeves, Head of eBusiness at Sky, explained how the media giant aims to deal with 50% of it’s customer interactions on digital channels. She quoted Altimeters Six Stages of Social business Transformation, placing Sky’s progress on the scale which goes from Planning to Presence to Engagement to Formalised to Strategic to Converged just over mid-way at Formalised. She also gave us a fascinating snapshot of Sky’s social customer service tech usage (below).

Sky social media

Sharon left us with a warning? social media (especially when driven by consumers) changes fast. Brands need to constantly think ahead to stay relevant, as she’s discovered the hard way. Interestingly, Sky has ditched Facebook completely as a service channel. Worth noting.

Next up was our afternoon Keynote, Chris Geddes, Global Director of Social Media & Community Support at Microsoft. As anticipated (hence the post-lunch slot), Chris produced our most controversial presentation of the day. Berating those who give social media ‘special status’ within brands and try to make it immune from being measured against business goals, he hacked away at commonly used metrics – reach, engagement, sentiment – and invited us to use just two or three (maximum).

At Microsoft, Chris doesn’t measure cost savings generated by call deflection, for example, since he can’t absolutely guarantee that a saving has been made. The harsh reality of board-room number-crunching hit everyone hard, but it all made sense.

Our mid afternoon presentation was from Abhishek Kakkar of O2 and Mawghan McCabe from engagement platform, Engagor. We learned that O2 has a team of 25 staff, monitoring and engaging across a wide range of social channels, from communities and 3rd party forums to relatively niche social networks. When asked how O2 manage to cover such a range, Abhishek cited Engagor’s multi-channel functionality as the critical factor.

Following this we had a short but insightful panel with three social CS experts: Clare Wilkerson, Director of Multi-channel at Direct Line, Leon Chaddock, CEO of engagement dashboard Sentiment and J-P De Clerck of i-Scoop [whose pre-summit post on relationship hubs is well worth a read]. The trio explored how to integrate social media into the contact centre.

Perhaps surprisingly for a brand that’s won awards for it’s social CS (including the world’s most ’empathetic’ brand on Twitter), Direct Line’s social team are based in a different city from their main contact centre. Leon Chaddock, who has worked with brands ranging from Barclays to B&Q and eBay, explained how to monitor, filter and channel social mentions to the right agents/community manager, saying “focus on filtering to agents according to their skills and knowledge, rather than function”.

Our afternoon round-table focused exclusively on how to measure and evaluate social CS. Following Chris Geddes’ comments earlier, initial discussions focused on the primary KPIs. My table fixed on ‘response time’ as the top KPI – combined with resolution time (though this can be hard to evaluate). We also separated out business impact KPIs from those designed to improve customer service performance and those related to brand/marketing – such as sentiment or advocacy – which other groups agreed with. [We’ve written about measuring social customer service before].

Virgin Media Community

Last up were Jim Meadows and James Woods, who run the Customer Community at Virgin Media. They are working at scale – 14,000 conversations per week – and therefore find brand sentiment a workable KPI. Their secret Jedi weapons (the session was heavily Star Wars themed) are their super-users and Lithium, the community platform which enables them to use gamification, awarding ‘kudos’ and hosting face-to-face events for their top contributors. They also gave us a nifty chart explaining how Virgin manages it’s customer community (above).

The second day of the Summit was our unique one-day master-class exploring ‘How to create your social customer hub’. Hosted by Martin Hill-Wilson, the class provided attendees from some of the UK’s largest brands with a practical guide to developing social media listening and engagement across their organisations. Feedback from the session was hugely enthusiastic, so we plan to run the course again later in 2015.

We’ll be sharing the presentations and further materials from this really popular summit over the coming days. If you missed it, you can sign up for email updates about the next London summit via the ‘Email Updates’ button on our events page (orange button). 

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