Social Customer Service: The Right Way

Does the phrase “there’s a time and a place for everything,” sound familiar to you? Most commonly, this is used when someone expresses themselves in the wrong way in a particular setting. This phrase also applies to social customer service because when it comes to providing customer service on social channels, there is a right time and a right place. Determining those intersection points for your business is the tricky part.

Every business model will have varying degrees of complexity when dealing with customer service issues online. Many industries including healthcare, finance, telecom and airlines have complex regulations to follow or be at risk for penalties. The rules and best practices vary from industry to industry, so it is crucial to fully understand and adhere to what you can and cannot do on these public channels.

The Right Time

For large organizations, it is more complex to develop and maintain a consistent social customer service strategy due to the sheer volume, coordination across business units and employee empowerment needed to handle customer issues effectively and efficiently. A vast majority of these organizations are using social media to promote, market and connect with their customers, but fewer are using social media as a consistent means of customer support. If your customers are looking for help on these social channels, it is important to meet them where they want to interact.

The challenge is to be responsive and engaging with the customer while also protecting their privacy in this public forum. In many cases, the company cannot even acknowledge the person posting as one of their customers which makes it difficult to create a personalized response. Therefore, social customer service teams frequently need to transition the customer to a different channel such as direct message, secure email or call.

It is also important to know when to jump in to social customer service. If not executed correctly, social customer service problems can quickly become a brand detractor and lead to issues going viral if you don’t have the right controls in place. There is no middle ground on this one, so you either need to be fully prepared to execute with clear and consistent engagement procedures or take more time to strategize, design and leverage best practices before you jump in.

The Right Place 

Consumers will use social media to interact with a company for a variety of reasons. At times, customers are making general comments about the brand, such as, “I love XYZ’s new product.” On other occasions, customers are asking questions like, “Where can I find more information about XYZ?” All of these moments are opportunities to engage with or help the customer, and fall under the responsibilities of a social customer service representative.

However, the circumstances in which all companies dread are public comments such as, “XYZ has the worst customer service! I waited 45 minutes before anyone would help me and then the employee was rude and couldn’t help me at all. I’m never going back to XYZ again.” This customer is clearly frustrated and wants someone to address their issue. This company needs to be in the right place, hearing this feedback as it happens and addressing it with speed, compassion and accuracy.

Social customer service programs allow representatives to address the customers’ needs in a timely manner, and turn the experience around. It is important to balance engagement while respecting the privacy and personal information of the customer. It is important for the customer service provider to understand the complexities of the situation and be empowered to handle issues as they arise.

Social media is growing in size and expanding in demographic – it isn’t just for teens and twenty-something’s anymore. Your customers expect you to be responsive on all channels and to address their issues quickly and completely.  Understand that while social customer service is just another channel, it brings with it added complexities that must be addressed proactively to provide excellent customer service in this very public forum.

Contact us to learn more about how you can start or enhance the delivery of your social customer service program.

Case Study

With millions of customers looking for options and information online, organizations must have a strong presence and process to meet the rising demand. Connecting with customers on their preferred channel deepens brand affinity, while leveraging insights across channels drives a differentiated experience for the customer.  A Fortune 50 organization partnered with Northridge to develop and deliver a best-in-class social customer service program.

Northridge performed a current-state assessment of the client’s social customer service channels and compared the channel effectiveness to market competitors. Through the analysis, Northridge was able to uncover multiple opportunities for increased engagement with more customer-centric processes and streamlined internal operations.

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About the Author

Pam Plyler

Pam has over 20 years of experience in the development and implementation of strategies to deliver a differentiated customer experience and also significantly reduce operating costs. Pam has successfully executed Contact Center transformation initiatives in all major business verticals including healthcare, retail, financial services, wholesale, and government. As Customer Experience Practice Lead, Pam provides leadership, operational expertise and insights to clients in this sphere.

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