5 Social Customer Service Predictions for 2014

How has social customer service progressed in 2013 and what can we expect in 2014? I've asked 5 social media and customer service experts - Katy Howell, Jerome...

How has social customer service progressed in 2013 and what can we expect in 2014? I’ve asked 5 social media and customer service experts to share their predictions:

  1.   Katy Howell
CEO, immediate future

Katy Howell

Next year we are going to roll our sleeves up and confront the challenge of multichannel customer service. Right?  I hope so as this year has seen a fair amount of dabbling and experimenting, especially in social media (with the exception of a few early adopter brands that are championed in case studies). And the result is that on average 70% of customer service complaints through social remain unanswered; departments report mixed success; and consumer research reveals frustration and brand impact.

Social customer service will get serious next year. Customers can’t continue to be ignored. More importantly, as companies recognise the need to focus on “marketing as a service”, the marketing teams will get more involved. After sales will move centre stage. Experimentation will move to a more structured approach with defined metrics, outcomes and a clear assessment of costs (and ROI if appropriate). Smart organisations will begin to plot the customer journey beyond  the sale and examine touchpoints for creating better connections with buyers.

This focus will lead to better in-channel responses and less complaint deflection, as issues are addressed across the functions from PR and comms through to marketing and sales. And as we move through the year there will be a greater awareness of social conversation trends and how they inform customer service and call centres.  Companies that embrace social will gather intelligence to predict issues bubbles and spot resourcing and skills requirements. Customer service will be pivotal in the success of meeting the demands of the multichannel, social customer!

  2.   Jerome Pineau

Jerome Pineau

Social customer service has evolved in 2013 and seems poised for a bright future in 2014. Here’s why:

Most social media efforts are still currently led by Marketing or Communication/PR departments (around 75% perhaps), but customer service has seen some progression in the enterprise as the “social owner”. This is a good thing because too many marketing efforts are still about “pushing content” and brand pitching rather than building and nurturing relationships. Something customer service folks, as a general rule, are particularly adept at as natural-born customer advocates and empathetic beings.

Additionally, no other social team has the sheer volume and range of access to “customer journey” touchpoints from initial discovery to final advocacy and recommendation stages. Being live and real-time in the trenches, Customer Service social teams also have a heads-up in real time content marketing – disseminating content ad-hoc and as needed to very large communities of engaged people.

As Marketing is becoming more and more about “helping” rather than pushing, I suspect Customer Service’s role and predominance in the social enterprise will increase in 2014 and over the next years.


  3.   Carolyn Blunt
Managing Director, Real Results

Carolyn Blunt

In writing the book Delivering Effective Social Customer Service in early 2013 it was a concern that by publication in late 2013 the world would somehow have just ‘got’ Social Customer Service and that the content of the book might be obvious.  Whilst some organisations are definitely doing great things with community and customer service over social channels, many are still just waking up to it and some are still making some unfortunate mistakes.

Some of the highlights for me this year have included the use of angry customer promoted tweets (BA), #scandals  (e.g. easyjetgate and AskBG) and evidence of the efficiency benefits from the use of community and YouTube to shorten call durations and queuing and deflect calls.

For 2014 I predict that we will see the continued growth in social and community alongside webchat as a means to serve our customers in non-voice channels.  However we will still need voice and email to be as effective as ever and be able to integrate for omni-channel customer experience.  Therefore key to doing all of this successfully will be the technology: listening tools, security (remember Poppy Cleere at HMV?) and CRM integration. Internal processes will be critical, namely communication, crisis management protocols and the join up between service channels as well as between customer service and marketing departments.  Finally, the training given to agents at the front line is crucial.  They need to be supported to work efficiently, on brand message but with the freedom to interact with customers in an authentic way.  The importance of the front line agent and the need to upskill and invest in them is heightened as a result of social customer service.

Exciting times ahead!


  4.   Luke Porter
Head of Social Customer Service, Sentiment

Luke Porter

Social Customer Service gained a lot of traction through 2013. There is now an acceptance that brands need to provide customer service across social channels. There is also general acceptance that social care needs to be delivered through the contact centre. What brands now need to accept is that social customer service needs to improve!

There are still too many brands taking too long to respond, missing important mentions and pushing customers onto other channels. Through 2014, I think we will see the ‘optimisation’ of social customer service, where brands take advantage of new workflow and routing options to deliver a more responsive and effective service. This can only be a good thing for the social customer.


  5.  Guy Stephens
Social Customer Care; Managing Consultant, IBM

Guy Stephens

I guess part of the backdrop to 2014 is Gartner’s prediction that the social customer space will reach a peak of interest by the second half of 2014.

2008 – 2010 saw a period of activity that challenged existing norms and models primarily through Twitter, 2010 – 2012 saw a period of consolidation, with 2013 perhaps characterised by a sense of normalisation – although a handful of companies are starting to push boundaries again such as NatWest using Vine videos for customer service, the KLM Twitter account showing response times, together with @HVSVN using Promoted Tweets to complain about British Airways. As we look to 2014 and beyond, it is my belief that we will see a number of trends taking place on different levels:

>  Shift from operational minutiae to a focus on scale, automation and integration. Furthermore, data becomes ‘natively’  embedded into the service ecosystem informing resolutions and experiences in real-time.

>  Move from ad hoc single point solutions (functions & features) to a genuine desire to understand how the different channels can work together in a more complex and sophisticated data-driven ecosystem.

>  Organisations and customers begin to learn how to genuinely harness the power of social for their own and shared needs. Moves the dial beyond being slaves to the technology, to a system of engagement that recognises and accepts not only the role of serendipity, but a genuine desire to understand how the different channels can work together in a more instinctive and spontaneous way.

>  Emergence of customer service ‘on the fly’. Organisations creating the tools (or else harnessing the tools created by other customers for example) to empower their customers to create their own personalised solutions when and where needed. Moving beyond the ‘legacy of resolutions’ at fixed points of organisational ownership (ie. web site FAQs) to a far more agile and nimble service ecosystem. The organisation becomes a participant and not an owner.


My musings:

This time last year, I kept seeing the words “2013 will be the year social customer service goes mainstream”. By in large I think that’s been the case. Consumers are much more aware that social is a viable alternative to the call centre and are not afraid to go public with their complaints (or even pay money to promote them). Brands have also become acutely aware of this and many industries have responded accordingly. In particular, data from Socialbakers shows us that transport, finance and telecoms sectors have well and truly embraced social as a mainstream customer service channel.

I’ve seen TV ads displaying customer service Twitter handles, have heard some excellent case studies from the likes of Greater Anglia, eBay, EE and Sony, and have been helped (or in the case of Argos, let down) by several companies myself.

So where do we go from here? If 2013 was the year social customer service went mainstream, then I hope 2014 will be the year it grows up as the challenge of multichannel customer service and Social CRM is still beyond most businesses.

When a customer gets in touch with a brand via social media, more often than not the staff on the other end don’t have any idea who they are. Have they already been in touch via phone, webchat or email? Are they a long-term customer? A known detractor? A big spender? Do they like a laugh or should we keep this serious? The agent is going in blind and the result is that the customer has to start from scratch every time they switch channel or speak to a new agent.

Once social media monitoring and engagement tools have been tied into CRM systems, we can start to offer a personalised approach to social customer service based on who that person is, what conversations have previously taken place and how they have responded in the past. Fingers crossed for 2014!


We will be discussing social customer service in two upcoming webinars:

Anything to add? Leave your own predictions in the comments.

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