In part one of this post I explored the performance and perceptions of customer service, comparing social media to voice and other channels. I left off on the point that, perhaps, social customer service is really about quality and culture, rather than sheer responsiveness.
Call centres have a justified reputation for being obsessed with their own agendas over those of the customer. To be fair, some have broken free, however many remain stuck. Meanwhile some brands doing Twitter are brilliant examples of being human, approachable and authentic.
- O2 during their network meltdown in 2012
- Virgin Money’s CEO who promotes herself as part of the service team
- The oddball collection of advisor photos on the Ford Twitter site which act as a perfect foil to ‘anonymous global brand’ syndrome
When we are looking at this category of examples, social customer service is breaking new ground. No doubt about it and one which the incumbent customer service industry should learn from. Where I do disagree is with the current assumption that social channels are clearly and always better than call centre delivered service experience.
And I will tell you why I think this.
Going back to my opening point, I do a lot of reading. I’m always pleased to find examples of organisations being praised for being ‘good’ at social. Often this is described in terms of a key metric that appears on everyone social media dashboard. It’s that wonderful sounding word – Engagement.
Engagement is an interesting concept as used in the social media space. It indicates we have the customer’s attention. They have responded to us. The like us, they re-tweet us etc. Remember we are still in the phase of Marketing rediscovering how to be relevant to an empowered consumer who is low on brand trust.
While these metrics are easy wins, in truth these are pretty superficial indicators and do not match the original meaning of the word engagement which is more to do with the feeling of being involved in something that matters.
The reason I mention this is that the examples I keep stumbling across of great social customer service are being praised for great ‘engagement’. For a while I simply accepted this and used them in my seminars and keynotes. However one day I decided to go look for some screenshots to show what this engagement actually looked like since we all learn better with real examples.
I was not impressed.
I’m not going to name and shame individual brands since it is pretty easy to go find examples for yourself and take away the right lessons. However they are some principles worth mentioning.
Social customer service loses a major advantage when advisors are allowed to simply cut and paste their initial response. That was what we criticised call centres for. This time the impact is even worse since everyone else can easily assess the house style and so this formulaic approach looks even worse.
Even if the call to action 99% of the time is to suggest that the customer direct messages you (which to my mind is done far too often) we need to make the effort to remain fresh and original for each individual customer.
And as a final comment on this topic, there is one well known brand that caveats every interaction with the word ‘appears’ as in “I’m sorry that it appears….”. No doubt this is the influence of Legal and their wish to impose up front damage control. However I noticed one exchange in particular in which a customer simply lost it around being patronised etc. So beware.
Most customer service is about solving the same old problems. That’s why Interaction Analytics is now making such headway in traditional call centres so we can ‘stop doing dumb things to customers’. The same applies to social channels. In fact even more so since the repetition of doing ‘dumb things’ is clear for all to see. The impact is to make the brand look unresponsive and uncaring. Brand managers take note please and intervene.
Let me give you an example. Twelve out of the top twenty UK retailers are on Facebook. Where ever a point of sale exists, the need to provide service quickly follows. My impression from sampling a few of them is that delivery issues are the most common and contentious issue for their Facebook customers.
Omni-channel retailing is logistically tough and we all know retailers are fighting to survive. It seems many have tried to economise on delivery costs. However these problems then turn up en masse online for all to see. They need to be fixed. Certainly in the context that all retailers are currently fighting like cats to deliver the best customer experience.
Where is the feedback loop from the social customer service team back into the business? Who in the customer experience team is sweating to make fundamental improvements yet meanwhile is sorting out short term compensation tactics?
This is still a tough act of co-ordination within mainstream Customer Service. Let’s hope socially sourced customer insight receives better treatment.
If you have managed to read this far, thanks for staying the course. I hope I have offered some constructive criticism for us all to consider. Each year the optimists amongst us proclaim this is the time social customer service goes mainstream. Personally I would hope we fix a few things before more customers get exposed so that the vision for social customer service is realised before it is completely over egged.
Martin Hill-Wilson is running a unique 1-day training course on ‘Social Customer Service’ in London on (12th March 2013). Places are limited and tickets are available here.