Social customer service – what’s next?

I have been doing my evening study of Marketing Academy panellists tonight when Owen, my colleague from Voice flagged up this study to me. It looks like major retailers using Twitter for customer service cannot keep up with the volume of conversations. I would like to put aside this particular notion simply because the study was conducted by one of the currently shining social monitoring companies, Conversocial (search for  “Top US Clothing Retailers on their Customer Service Response Times on Twitter”) so it’s obviously focused on proving the need for sophisticated measurement tools.

What bothers me (and from what I see Owen too) is the fact that many retailers do not take the customer service over Twitter serious enough to run it 24/7 including weekends. Social media channels are not bound to office hours so how do they manage the volume of conversations left “at their desk” on Monday morning? How do they manage the risk of a highly critical conversation kicked off by a highly influential (does not an equal celebrity!) person escalating for more than 48 hrs? Just for the sake of comparison – the Greenpeace Guinness record activity to fight Facebook’s dirty energy sources resulted in 80,000 comments under one note in 24 hrs!

So please, please! If you do intend to move into social media with your customer service (and I am sure I will be the first person to suggest that to you if you have a good product!;)) do consider the nature of the channels you are about to use.

  • Make it real time.
  • Make it personal.
  • Listen and respond.
  • Manage private vs. public communication wisely.
  • Incorporate social into all other channels of communication and customer service.
  • Make this channel different – do not send people back to call you. Call them back. Make it different than other areas of your customer service. Make it unique.
  • Even more: ensure that your Twitter/Facebook team is faster, wiser, nicer and BETTER than the rest of your customer service. Ensure the team WILL FIX things!

Why? Because we will go to Twitter when we ran out of options. When we are frustrated and tired of waiting on the phone, talking to many people and not getting any answers.

I really hope that once day you will discover that you are facing the problem of the volume of conversations. There are tools out there to help you to measure the word of mouth and pick up conversations that need responding to, but also to engage and manage team work. Some are more expensive, some are pretty affordable even for small businesses (SproutSocial is a pretty good tool for the monthly fee they charge and gives you both measurement and engagement tools, Radian6 have both but cost much more – might help in huge volumes of conversations though). Test those tools and choose wisely. Adjust your team and processes. Listen, learn, improve. Keep up with your consumers!

You know what will happen next? You will discover that some areas of your customer service or even other areas of your operations are not perfect. One day you might be able to change the way you operate for better – for yourself and for your consumer. Why not?

Mark Choueke (one of the Marketing Academy panellists) put it wisely: “Change is happening! So what’s next?”Embrace that change and start wisely! There is one amazing element of social media conversations: if you open up and engage in conversations your consumers will help you through this change. Trust me;)

(Check out @Easyspace for bad practices and @BTCare for great work in their customer service over Twitter)

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