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Social Customer Service

What social customer service is and why you need it

Written by: Alex Rogers
Posted on: 01 Oct, 2017

Discover why you need social customer service to help grow your business and the benefits available to you when it really works.

Communication with customers has evolved thanks to social media, the effects of which are already prevalent in sales and especially marketing behaviours. Long helpline queues and clunky one-to-one support channels are making way for super-quick messaging and dedicated Twitter accounts. Early adopters and progressive teams have all learned the bottom line, that most customers just want a solution to their problem and they want it fast - in fact, at least 42% expect it instantly according to Conversocial.

Read our key read on why you should be encouraging social media at work

Enter Social Customer Service. Callcenterhelper.com defines it as, “the practice of extending a business’s existing service platform to include social media channels.” This certainly encapsulates the essence but let’s not forget that the root cause is to offer better customer support through improved communication. Just like relationships remain at the heart of social selling, so too they are for social customer service.

What are the benefits?

A lot like employee advocacy and social selling, social customer service makes sharing information and building relationships with many people easier. You don’t always need to hold a customer’s hand through solving a problem or choosing a product, sometimes a helpful article or a set of instructions can be just as effective. This lean toward self-sufficiency is why companies have put more emphasis and effort into their FAQ pages as well as content elsewhere on their websites.

Social media can also make the process much quicker. ‘Listening’ to what customers are talking about online can provide both qualitative and quantitative insight in a fraction of the time that it can take for traditional market and customer research - at a fraction of the cost too. With this strategy, your understanding of your customers’ needs and behaviours can evolve as they do.

Helping customers online can be more satisfactory and cheaper, which is great for everyone involved. Customers don’t like queueing and on social media they don’t have to. 60% say they expect a response within an hour on social media, while 63% are satisfied with the time they that generally do wait - according to this infographic. This also shows that what’s good for customers is good for businesses too as solving a customer issue online is said to cost ⅙ of the cost compared to call center interaction.

Buyers spend a large proportion of their journey researching online before they make a decision on choosing a company and its products. This is why it is also so beneficial to be seen operating in their space. Social media allows companies to solve problems and fulfil customers’ needs out in the open where potential suitors can also see what a great job they’re doing! Research according to Bain & Company has also shown that when companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more money with the company.

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How: Proactive Vs Reactive

There is a wealth of information out there regarding methodology behind social customer service, not to mention some contradictory arguments as to which ones work better than others. The fact is that finding out which one works best for you is very subjective to your needs and capabilities.

However, in this article we've boiled them down into two categories, proactive customer service and reactive. It’s good to consider an example of both, as it is most likely that a combination of the two will work for your business.

Proactive social customer service is about future proofing and a common example of this would be an FAQ page. This is built based on your customer and market research but probably more often also from your direct experiences and social listening too. When you know what your customers are frequently discussing and researching, it becomes easier for you to create appropriate content that can be easily shared numerous times without the need for human interaction. Content works wonders with human too, social salespeople share company content with their networks to establish themselves as expert sources and the same can certainly apply to customer service teams as well.

Some companies now publish guides and other information in the form of content resources that are available in a library on their websites. This is another great vehicle for establishing a company’s expertise in their field and makes a great resource pool that employees can dip in and out of to share information effortlessly.

Reactive social customer service is the most commonly understood. Examples of which can include, live chat, instant messaging on Facebook and many more. These do generally require human interaction, for now at least until language learning issues are ironed out of AI. While we’ve already discussed the benefits of this, there are potential pitfalls if for example a customer has initiated a social media conversation to avoid a phone call only to be told that they need to call customer services. It is important to consider how you need to help your customers before planning your strategy around social customer care.

Conclusion

There is an underlying current that really excites us when we discuss topics like this or social selling or employee advocacy, it’s that all of them enable a progressive and sometimes groundbreaking culture in businesses. One where previously siloed departments and teams can work more efficiently together toward a single cause to improve the customer experience.

Remember that open and positive relationships are the key to good customer service and that isn’t just a team in an office, it is everyone’s duty.

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