Stop your #Hashtag being used as a customer service #Bashtag

The number of brands actively using social media as a customer service channel is still relatively niche, today however, consumers expectations for their issues to be resolved instantly across Twitter and Facebook pages, is becoming standard practice.

The ‘I want it NOW!’ mentality, means that brands are under increasing pressure to provide a speedy response across social channels, or, as recent press coverage has shown, risk being at the mercy of disgruntled customers, who share their poor service experiences publicly.

In the words of Jeff Bezos, CEO at Amazon.com;

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.”

So you’d think a post on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter would lead to a fast resolution for most customers. However, recent research findings from Socialbakers, shows that whilst the average industry response rate to questions on Facebook has significantly increased, from 30% in June 2012 to 62% in Q2 2013, an increase of 143% – of the hundreds of brands surveyed, only16% offer social customer care across Facebook.

Consumers that have used social media for service, wield the greatest amount of influence – according to American Express – telling significantly more people about their service experiences. Social media offers them a platform to vent their spleen to a large and influential audience, in the hope of a speedier resolution to their issue. The flip side of this however, is that consumers also said they’d spend 21% more with companies that deliver great service, compared to 13% on average.

So what are businesses doing to improve social customer service and how does this measure up to customer’s expectations?

Recently, Synthetix conducted their own research, that noticeably showed that 55% of consumers now expect companies to provide customer service via social media sites such as Facebook.

For many organisations, which department takes responsibility for social media however, is still a grey area. Should this be handled within the marketing department or customer service department?, or shared across the two? And if this is the case – inherent difficulties may arise regarding integrating different departmental legacy technology. In order for organisations to offer a seamless multi-channel customer service across social and other channels, these department and channel silos need to be joined-up.

The growth of mobile channels is also having an impact on the usage of social media for customer service. Accord­ing to the Adobe 2013 Mobile Consumer Survey, accessing social media is the number one mobile activity today, with 71% of those surveyed reporting using their mobile device to access social media.

Social media lowers the barriers between a customer and a brand and is increasingly becoming the final resort for many consumers, after experiencing difficulties reaching a brand via more traditional methods.

So how does a brand ensure their #Hastag isn’t just used as a #Bashtag – an open forum to publically criticise and shame them, with the risk of substantial brand damage?

Knowledge is power – managing social customer service:

  • Social self-service – being proactive: Help your customers to help themselves by giving them access to instant, up-to-date answers to common questions, before they are forced to resort to a post or a tweet on your social pages. By offering a self-service FAQs tab on your social page, there is a good chance that the customer will be able to resolve their issue without further assistance – saving them time and you money.
  • Empower staff to resolve issues quickly: Deploying a centralised, well maintained knowledge-base across your social pages and also allowing staff access internally – across both marketing and customer service departments – will empower them to be able to respond quickly, whether its engaging one-to-one, publically on Twitter and Facebook or via live chat.
  • Multi-channel consistency: Best-in-class organisations utilize their knowledge-base by deploying it across all customer contact channels, to ensure customers receive a consistent service, regardless of which channel they choose to contact you over (social, web, e-mail, live chat, contact centre or in-store).
  • Listen and learn from your customers: As Bill Gates once said; “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Knowledge-base analytics provide brands with valuable in-sight into the types of questions, complaints and issues being raised – helping to identify issues and opportunities to improve your products and service.

Going social with your customer service can give you a big competitive advantage, providing you with an open forum to communicate with your customers, both pre and post sales. With the right technology in place, brands can deliver a #Greatcustomerservice, helping to turn customers who are tempted to #Bashtag you, into evangelists for your brand.