Social customer service pioneers make it harder for late-comers – here’s why…

We asked social customer service expert, Martin Hill-Wilson, about the future of social customer service. He painted a positive picture - but not for the latecomers, whose task...

Martin Hill-Wilson social customer service

In the run-up to SCSS15 we ask social customer service expert, Martin Hill-Wilson, about the future of social customer service. He paints a positive picture – but not for the latecomers…

Martin Hill-Wilson social customer service

1. What do you see as the biggest challenge for brands delivering social customer service in 2015?

We are in an interesting period. The early adopters such as telcos, retail and travel have now earned sufficient customer trust that volumes are increasing and vendors are finding a steady inflow of RFPs, suggesting that more sophisticated infrastructure is now being sought to support that demand.

But other sectors are proving much more reluctant to move on from locked Facebook pages or unpredictable, slow responses which only frustrates customers and exposes organisations to negative perceptions of their service ethic. This appears to be a blind spot since there is certainly widespread investment in customer experience/customer engagement as a strategic imperative.

For whatever reasons, too many organisations seem to think it is OK to delay social engagement, even if they are fearful of revealing shortcomings in their end-to-end service capabilities (something, by the way, that we as consumers already know!). I think it’s a great mistake to prioritise channel investment based on volumes. Social is certainly not a major channel by volume, but it heads the list as far as impact and reputation is concerned.

2. Have brands improved their performance over the past 12 months?

Eptica’s annual multi-channel study for 2015 painted an encouraging picture for social customer service here in the UK based on a mystery shopping exercise with the 100 leading organisations. Their headline insights were as follows:

“Customer service on social media has developed significantly over the last twelve months. Average response times on Twitter dropped by over a third (to 5 hours 27 minutes) while accuracy improved to 41% (now beats email, which implies social delivers a better rate of resolution). However, performance is patchy. 46% of companies failed to respond at all to a tweet sent to their official Twitter handle, while others took over 40 hours to respond”.

This view supports what I was saying above. The best are getting better and so it will become progressively more challenging to satisfy expectation for newcomers if they wait too long.

3. In recent research by Conversocial brands cited the difficulty of measurement as a challenge. Do you accept this?

I don’t think social is more difficult to measure than other channels. Any decent infrastructure can timestamp social engagement and therefore provide all the traditional performance metrics that service operations need. Social listening’s analytics capabilities can even provide a rough guide to how customer emotions can change over the course of an interaction.

That said, it might be that the real issue for people answering this question is more to do with value and how is social can be ‘justified’ as a new investment. Certainly the lack of budget was a real issue for a recent social media audience I hosted here in the UK. So maybe this is really a discussion around business case and ROI.

If so, then the answer to that lies in evaluating the impact of positive and negative mouth of word that can and does flow from publicly conducted customer service. There is an increasing amount of research available online that correlates customer satisfaction with positive behaviours such as advocacy and repurchase.

4. What are the best brands in social CS focused on achieving this year?

Some are extending the remit and capitalising on all opportunities for engagement. For instance, airlines tracking mentions of destinations, or DIY stores listening for mentions of barbecues: real-time prospecting, in other words.

Others are investing in meshing social and tradition channels as a result of work being done around service design and customer journeys. Social of course is part of a bigger picture around understanding what matters to the customer so it is being integrated into the full service infrastructure – CRM, knowledge management, unified queuing etc.

Finally, the most sensible are quietly investing behind the scenes in simplifying their workflows and decision-making to decrease response times and fix service issues so they don’t reappear. They have recognised that social is a powerful trigger for internal transformation and are using it to make the organisation more capable of serving digital customer expectations

5. Who are your social CS heroes and why?

I love KLM. They are endlessly creative around social and always seem to break boundaries before others. I admire Argos for becoming a source of best practice by being willing to try out new ideas. I guess I would have to tip my hat to the train companies for probably having the toughest ‘day in life of’. Overall they do a great job of reducing the frustrations and drudgery of the daily commute.

6. Give us one practical social CS tip that brands could implement today? 

I think more brands could collect feedback on social. Ask for one more click through to an online survey and find out what did and did not work. Any opportunity to improve has to be taken on social.

Martin will be speaking at Social Customer Service Summit 2015 in London on 30th April and running a unique strategy workshop on ‘Building Your Social Customer Hub’ on 1st May.  

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