Why are we so bad at social media customer service?
While social media marketing campaigns have always grabbed the lion’s share of the headlines, customer service is the area where the real battles for market dominance are being waged.
Providing good customer service is not just about differentiation, it is business-critical.
So… why is everyone so awful at it?
There are a lot of reasons customer service isn’t up to scratch. It’s a new discipline. In many cases it’s grown organically. A majority of businesses still file social under the marketing banner, rather than as a service department, which means that there are conflicting interests vying for channel space.
This means that the market is under-serviced in many cases. According to 2015 data, the majority of businesses using social media are only able to respond to two-thirds (66%) of the social media interactions they receive.
This issue is actually compounded in businesses where social customer service is part of the wider customer service function.
Channel expertise is at a premium, meaning there is often a lack of structure between the people running the Twitter account and the people on the phone. What should be a beautiful, frictionless experience for a customer becomes a hell of multiple calls, and explaining issues over and over again.
It’s worth remembering that by the time someone is complaining about your business online, it is probably because your other channels have already failed them. You are starting with a customer who is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it anymore.
No amount of brand-building is going to counteract that. And just so we’re clear on the impact, 40% of US consumers have taken their business to a competitor brand based purely on superior customer service.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that I’ve recently finished writing an enormous social media customer service best practice guide on just this subject, which you can access through ClickZ Intelligence, but just like customer service, it would also be bad of me not to at least try to solve the issue in this post.
The most forward thinking organisations have begun to address these issues by creating posts that are designed to completely own customer experience. Rather than separating touchpoints by channel, a Chief Experience Officer or Chief Customer Officer is primarily charged with making sure that the customer has a good time, all of the time.
On the face of it this seems straightforward (It’s not), and there is definitely a school of thought that says it is as much about mindset and culture as it is systems and processes. The realisation that every department is on the same P&L is, perhaps surprisingly, not a common one in business.
I mentioned channel expertise earlier. The ability to understand how interactions occur on different platforms is key to successful implantation, because it will fundamentally affect how you measure success.
In the case of email or telephone, it was historically common practice to base reporting on ‘number of closed cases’. This obviously does not always motivate the service representative to supply customers with the best answer to an issue. Merely the quickest.
This is again compounded by social, where it is not a linear conversation. A phone call may take ten minutes to complete. A contact through Twitter may be answered immediately, but the customer may not respond for several hours. Time-to-resolution is not a fair or useful metric here.
Also, while it is strategically possible to remove customer satisfaction from channels, it is not as easy to separate it from departments. If your marketing team is providing customer service, then you can bet they’ll want that value reflected in their monthly reports.
The fact that at least a third of social media questions go unanswered is also an issue bought on by a failure to apply considered metrics to social customer service. Marketing has often been guilty in the past of ‘everything, everywhere’ approaches to social. We have to be on Snapchat and Pinterest and Twitter and YouTube and…
Hold your horses.
Success in any form of social media is dictated by the quality of service you can provide. Whether that’s an interesting Facebook page or a raft of multimedia omnichannel responses. If you cannot resource for these channels, then the most valuable thing a business can do is work out which channel is most used by their customer base, and concentrate on responding on that channel.
As businesses become more complex, so too does customer service. Monitoring tools are extremely advanced, but if they do not have a native language speaker setting up initial Boolean search terms, then they will miss a huge number of interactions (If you’d like to see this in action, try typing ‘SEO’ into search.twitter.com and see how many returns you get from Korea that have nothing to do with Search Marketing).
Although these systems are still developing, many use tracking and logging processes designed for traditional CRM. Where ‘traditional’ CRM provides a customer persona based on their interactions with a business by phone, email, through a website or in person. Social CRM data includes every interaction that customer makes with any business, so can be far more valuable if collected and utilised properly, but it requires a more comprehensive tracking and response process.
There is no simple way to provide great customer service through social, but it is achievable, and perhaps more importantly, it has clear commercial value. Forrester found that 45% of users will abandon an online purchase if they can’t quickly find answers to their questions.
The trick is to find out where that customer is online and be ready to provide that information.