3 steps to avoid social customer service becoming really expensive

This is a guest post from Katy Howell, CEO of immediate future. On January 22nd Katy is speaking on a free webinar on Monitoring for Social Customer Service. As...

This is a guest post from Katy Howell, CEO of immediate future. On January 22nd Katy is speaking on a free webinar on Monitoring for Social Customer Service.

As brands enthusiastically connect with customers through social media, they also open the doors for customer complaints – sometimes the floodgates. Without planning, service demands can suddenly, often unexpectedly, shoot up. And the increase in complaints can drive up costs for the business.

According to Nielson’s social media report 2012, 47% of social media users engage in social media care. Whilst 1 in 3 prefer to use social rather than the telephone to complain, it is also clear that not all social customer service is replacing traditional channels – it’s happening in addition to normal customer service operations.

Of course, companies need to respond and maintain a positive profile in social. Complaints cannot be ignored. But the result of increasing social complaints is that more resource is required. More investment is needed, which becomes hard to justify without clear ROI or rational.

Part of the problem is the fact that managing social complaints has often grown organically as the requirements have increased. In some cases social customer service is being managed by marketing teams in between promotions. Clearly as follower numbers grow this becomes increasing untenable and a risk to the business.

So how can you manage social customer service? How can you understand the true cost of responding to customers, and what do you need to put in place to minimise its impact?

     1.     Lift the corner up and look under the carpet

Before jumping into social customer service look under the carpet and see exactly how many bugs you might be dealing with. In other words conduct a feasibility study to evaluate the impact of managing social complaints. Get into the real detail. Simulate live social customer care with a small team – and record everything. It will help you:

–       Isolate who needs to be working in the response team – it could be a mixed team of marketing, community managers, customer service, call centres etc.

–       Identify the number and types of complaints (you might find that there are some customer queries that don’t require customer service attention, but do need addressing with FAQs)

–       Evaluate the hours of service and resource requirements

Your aim is to uncover hidden operational costs, identify ways of working and establish the business case for social customer service.

     2.     Get tooled up

Technology is here to help. From social media monitoring tools (e.g. Sentiment Metrics) and integrated CRM tools (e.g.Salesforce) to chat tools (e.g. Moxie), through to social management tools (e.g. ConverSocial) and integrated tools (e.g. GetSatisfaction); there is a wide array of technologies to ensure your operations are in peak performance. In selecting the right tools you are looking for two ways to efficiently support your social customer service:

–       Improve resource efficiency – by providing tools that make it easy to respond direct within social networks with chat functions and form boxes. If you’re working across multiple social profiles you might also want to consider a social management tool that save you time jumping from one profile to another (most also create an audit trail for evaluation too).

–       Integrate with current systems – sounds obvious, but if you want agents to respond quickly and accurately, then the more integrated your social tools are with your traditional systems, such as CRM, the easier it is to quickly resolve issues.

But it isn’t all about the technology either. You can increase effectiveness by ensuring the tools of customer service are at the fingertips of all staff responding – everything in the service infrastructure such as customer records, service documentation etc.

Finally you may also be managing social customer service across the business functions. In which case, more than anything you need process. Clear workflows and escalation processes that prevent risks, but also make it easier for everyone to understand their responsibilities. Essential if you want to set KPIs.

     3.     Think socially

–      Social customer service isn’t just about bringing traditional operations into the social space. You need to think socially. For one of our clients, a large electrical manufacturer, analysis showed that almost 50% of queries were actually people asking straightforward self-help queries. The resolution was to provide more answers on the website and other online estates: Creating an online knowledge base that funnelled the more simple queries.

–      And many companies have gone one step further, providing forums where support can also be offered by peers. According to Jive Software, 46% of all support questions are answered by peers within the National Instruments’ community instead of by customer service.

These three areas form the basis of running an efficient and effective social customer service team – ensuring both your board and customers are happy. If you want to get cracking on a pilot feasibility study then feel free to take a look at making the business case for social customer service.

And one final point, if your customer complaints really are escalating out of control, then it might be time to actually fix the problem!

Katy will be speaking alongside Ronan Gillen (eBay), Leon Chaddock (Sentiment Metrics) and Luke Brynley-Jones (Our Social Times) at a free webinar on January 22ndMonitoring for Social Customer Service.

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