Wednesday, February 8, 2017

How Are Social Media Customer Service Interactions Different From Traditional Interactions?

By: Janet Poklemba

Some days I am called upon to articulate what makes social media customer service different from traditional channels and why these interactions are so important to business.   Because I am engaged in the day-to-day and strategic planning for this disruptive and dynamic channel, it makes perfect sense to me. However, it can be very hard to explain how businesses can use these moments of truth to their advantage.
Social media customer service certainly benefits the customer who has reached out or shared their opinion.  It is true that the squeaky wheel still gets the grease.  In the absence of stellar customer service processes to keep customers inside our companies for issue resolution, customers have been trained to escalate in social channels.  For some, it’s just the easiest way to connect and for others there is some satisfaction in venting to the masses.
Having skilled customer service people available to address these issues provides 3 key benefits to businesses that may not immediately be obvious.

Risk  Social media posts are typically driven by emotion.  As a brand, you need to know ASAP when one of your customers has had an experience so important they feel it’s necessary to take the business outside of the family and share with the whole neighborhood.  Engagement in social media doesn’t move the risk away, but it does message that your brand cares about what customers have to say and wants to be part of the conversation.  Keep in mind, social media is no longer a like button or a comment on a thread.  Customers post videos, audio recordings, gifs, photos of cute dogs with signs begging your company to help.  If brands aren’t on top of conversations and engaging in authentic meaningful ways, a post could go viral before you even have a chance to resolve an issue and possibly have a post removed or amended.  These folks have a voice, and they know how to use it.

Insight  Not just impressions or likes or follows, but real meaty insight that you can mine to understand where the emotion is and what drives the post, both positively and negatively. Sure, you may never be able to tie a tweet from “2tired2clean” or from 'Bill and Sarah' Facebook page to a customer in your database, but you can use the verbatim from your social data, including ratings & reviews, with a freakishly awesome text analytics tools, and see if it matches what you are hearing in your contact centers.  Think about the classic iceberg of complaints and know for a fact that your detractors on social are representing a larger number of customers.  Is social amplifying issues you are aware of?  Fix them! Does it notify you of problems people are having?  Look into it!  It’s one of the best (double edged) early warning systems money can buy.  Use it! 

Trust Building  On phone call, the conversation is 1:1.  If I resolve your issue, we’re good and it’s done.  In social, the conversation is 1:many.  Even if I resolve your issue, your complaint may stay there forever.   Social media brings the power of the conversation to your customer and amplifies their message to a broader audience where it can be shared and immortalized.   Social also allows business to use that power for good.  Where else do you get a chance to publicly show how much you care about the concerns of the people who use your products and services?  Social is about human beings reaching out to human beings.  People are smart enough to know who complains just to complain (1 star) and who loves everything they buy (5 star).  They see engagement and recognize canned responses vs. authentic replies.  They are willing to give brands the chance to make it right.  Brands need to have the right people in place to meet that expectation.

Social media customer service is different.  The stakes are higher, the risk is greater, and the reward can be significant.  Many in my industry speak of customer service as the new marketing.  In many ways that is true.  Customer service professionals are taking the engagement and servant leadership we have honed and are bringing it into a public forum where others can see what we’ve been doing for years.  Listening, acknowledging, and taking care of people.

Janet Poklemba has been in the business of customer service for over 20 years in multiple industries, and in a variety of call center leadership roles working both sides of the BPO model and managing in-sourced teams. She is passionate about the Customer Experience and all things digital to help reduce customer effort and bring the voice of the customer to the decision making table. 

Janet is a Customer Experience leader with a diverse skill set in leadership, project management, data analysis, digital/social media care, sales effectiveness, call center operations, developing customer connections, business requirements documentation and technology requirements/implementation. She is an excellent cross functional collaborator and has significant experience managing customer engagement, support and sales. Janet is experienced in multiple industries including telecommunications, satellite TV, home warranty and consumer products. She prioritizes customer service and collaboration as primary tools for success.

Follow Janet on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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