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Social Customer Service: Say goodbye to your bad habits before your customers say goodbye to you!

33905558 - positive feedback on green blackboard with handNo one would argue that it isn’t stressful being in the hiring and firing line of customers. With our customer’s expectation running higher than ever, combined with the mantra that marketeers have lived by for at least a decade or two – that retention is more cost effective than acquisition, it is hardly surprising that the introduction of social media into the communication mix has shaken things up when it comes to the delivery of customer service.

The Institute of Customer Service estimate that today over 70% of the working population have roles in customer facing jobs. So we should be pretty good at it by now – right?

Well we certainly score pretty high when it comes to Europe – on the EUCSI index (European Customer Satisfaction Index) we are top of the charts scoring 76.1. Apparently, much of the credit has to be given to our retailers who appear to be the exemplar of good customer service and credited with boosting the national average.

However, a study by Buchanan found that 1 in 3 new candidates for customer facing roles were lacking the necessary skills to deliver customer service well, a worrying statistic for the future. Posing a question mark over how environments with a new found demand for a more customer orientated approach will cope to resource it in the future?

Whilst we score high on customer satisfaction, apparently the area that lets the UK down the most is the big issue of “trust”. The recent £18million fine for Scottish Power highlighted the risks arising when the customers needs are not met and trust is eroded. Ofgem concluded that Scottish Power had failed to protect their customers during the installation of a new IT system but more than the operational issue itself, the catalyst for complaints was more about the failure to deal with the customer service enquires and long waiting time associated with dealing with the flood of complaints they received that led to the hefty fine.

The bottom line is that a brand, a business and any combination in between, needs to be there in times of a customer’s need. Today the social media environment creates another option for customers to convey their feelings, good and bad. The Institute of Customer Care found that in a sample of 2,195 social media users at least 1 in 4 (25%) had taken to social media to complain in the previous 3 months. Of note was that 12% admitted that whilst they had started their complaint in another communications channel but dissatisfied with progress had then used social media to escalate their complaint – perhaps a lesson for all!

As a result, some of the most disillusioned, angry and frustrated customers are taking to social media, the most public of all of the communications channels, putting the reputation of brands at considerable risk of damage. Despite this risk, a number of organisations continue to put their relationship with their customers at considerable risk through poor working practices that have become cultural habits.

These bad habits are undermining all the great work undertaken by the brand, marketing and customer service teams. Here we take a look at the common culprits when it comes to bad habits…

Bad Habit Number 1 – The management team don’t want to listen

At CrowdControlHQ we work with an array of sectors and regularly hear the view from well meaning senior managers that they believe it would be better for their organisation to steer well clear of social media all together. They express concern that someone may take the opportunity to complain. They believe that the brand will be “embarrassed” if some of their dirty laundry is aired in public, whilst others confess that they are more worried about the extra workload that could be generated from having to respond to customers or worse still, the need arising to tackle the issues that are at the heart of the complaint.

Dealing with the reality! The UK’s population are spending on average 20 hours week on the internet giving them ample time to talk about you, whether you are listening in or not! 73% of UK internet users use social media (Ofcom 2016), with over 80% accessing it at least once a day so to be absent when the debate is going on means that it is impossible to take the steps to protect your brand, challenge any incorrect perception or respond to customer issue before it turns into a deal breaker for them. The issue of resource creates an interesting challenge. If customers are choosing social media as their channel of choice, then a customer centric business will adjust their resourcing accordingly to ensure that their organisation is a position to respond to the demand. So if your organisation is currently adopting a ‘head in sand’ approach – it certainly makes business sense to think again!

Bad Habit Number 2 – Not taking response times seriously!

Generally, customer service functions have strict KPI’s when it comes to response times but often we see evidence that these haven’t been transferred over to social media, with some still failing to respond in a timely manner to queries. And it is not just about first response but also the ability to get accurate information that causes ‘pain’ within the customer service journey. Why does it matter? The longer you leave your customer with the problem, the more communicative they are likely to be and tell a wider audience of their dissatisfaction with your brand.

Speed & accuracy are two fundamentals of customer satisfaction. Oracle research found that over half of Twitter users expected a response in 2 hours. Whilst Edison found in their sample, that 42% expect that response to be within an hour! Both findings demonstrate the high expectation when it comes to response times. With many brands like Virgin moving to a 24hour response team, customers are getting used to accessing support at any and all times of the day. However, the absolute essential when it comes to handling customer service response on social media is accuracy! This trumps everything, people don’t mind waiting a few hours if they have their situation resolved quickly and conclusively. This is where social media management software solutions play their part – helping organisations to quickly sift queries to the relevant department to ensure that response is accurate and impactful.

Bad Habit Number 3 – Not tracking conversations

Customers in times of need don’t want to relive the issue time and time again by having to repeat themselves. In compliant savvy industries such as financial services there is also a need to remain compliant by recording what was said (and by whom) for audit. Leaving the conversation on the native system is a very inefficient way of managing customer service engagement and far from the ‘Omni-channel’ approach needed where customers are engaging across multiple channels on the same issue.

Tracking is key! Just as call centres have the ability to track conversations, the same applies in social media. All customer conversations should be tracked so that when there is a change of customer service personnel, the handover is seamless. This also creates a wealth of learning and the ability to train customer contact handlers to deliver quality responses in the future. Also consider that not all inbound queries will be complaints, some may be product requests or even thanks, so a sifting process is essential to prioritise and move the conversation quickly to those who can manage them effectively.

Bad Habit Number 4 – Trying to move customers off social media

There is a temptation to try to move people away from social media when there is some element of negativity arising. However, with your customer deciding that social media is their preferred channel of communication, this can be a dangerous tactic. Short term pain can quickly turn to conflict if you fail to create a flexible approach for people to engage with your organisation. Key for customer service success is to allow people to talk to you on their terms.

Offer flexibility to drive customers satisfaction! For general customer service support, complaints or information it is always best to keep them social. Grasp the opportunity to show that you are listening and care! O2 won admiration for this approach during their biggest PR crisis as a brand when in 2012 their network went down leaving people without signal. They initiated a very human and humour driven crisis PR approach winning admiration from their customers for tackling the issue square on.

Are there any scenarios when you should initiate a transfer? There are only two general scenarios where it is deemed appropriate to initiate a transfer away from social media. The first is when there could be a breech of confidentiality i.e. where personal data is needed. The second, where the sheer quantity of information exchange needed to examine the issue fully would make the social media channel inappropriate. With any transfer the tone and wording of the transfer has to be administered very carefully. However, the golden rule is to always switch back to social at the close or after resolution of the case to check how you’ve done and reap the rewards of any positive feedback. A customer who has had their issue addressed is likely to be your best advocate for brand referral at that specific moment in time.

Bad Habit Number 5 – Not managing your social – you react and hope for the best!

We have written many blogs on this subject and as the UK’s leading social media risk and brand management software you might expect us to say this but the message is so important to those responsible for decision making around the investment into social media communications. Social Media needs to be carefully planned, resourced and implemented! The same rigour needs to be applied to social as with any other communication channel. In a recent survey conducted within the Automotive industry we were staggered to hear that 37% were operating without any social media plan in place what so ever and 64% admitted to social media practices that would currently leave them in breach of the FCA social media guidelines.

A planned approach is a successful one! A proactive stance to social media management does not just make good business sense in terms of achieving effective ROI, it ensures that your social and/ or customer support team are driving the value of your brand in a positive rather than a negative direction. Good customer service support on social media doesn’t just happen, it arises from a carefully constructed eco-system of process, people and approach.

Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service summarised this nicely when quoted as saying “Fostering the right relationship with customers isn’t just a nice to have, it is essential to success of all customer facing organisations.”

CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform built for enterprise. We support customer facing organisations to deliver exceptional social media engagement, creating an audit trail of cross channel discussion and measuring and reporting impact.

Michelle Leavesley – Marketing Director

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Lewis Jones