Social Customer ServiceAs we kick off 2015, companies are having more conversations with their customers on social networks than ever before – lots of conversations. A recent study by Social Bakers revealed that the number of questions asked of brands on Twitter has doubled in the last year alone. As social media conversations between companies and their customers will no doubt increase further, a lack of clarity on who owns social media within organizations continues to prevent companies from making the most of this critical interaction channel.

Marketing Has Traditionally Led the Way

For the most part, marketing teams have been the early participants in harnessing social engagement for business benefit. Customers were often encouraged to reply and comment around marketing campaigns launched on social networks. The brand responded in-kind, and thus a social back-and-forth between the brand and customers became a norm – a social conversation started.

Marketing related social conversations are an easy way for the brand to publicly endorse advocates, foster relationships, and build customer loyalty. Typically, this simple form of engagement only requires lightweight tools, including features like moderation of activity around a brand’s social pages, and a reply option. For many, this lightweight solution enabled the business to get by for a while.

Customer Service is Necessary to Respond at Scale

As brands established their presence on social networks, customers began to use this channel for more than just comments on marketing material and the brand. They started to ask questions, and they started to voice complaints. Some organizations were smart enough to include participants from their customer service organization on social media teams from the outset. Other less customer service-oriented companies have had to deal with clunky workflows for social interactions when handing off customer problems and questions that are outside of their comfort-zone. But the growth in social conversation volumes has demonstrated that the genie is out of the bottle. Addressing customer care issues via social perpetuates the growth of the channel overall. Many customers  – particularly the millennials – are apt to launch an interaction with a company via social media, often using their mobile phone. Customers also use social as part of their overall customer journey in conjunction with other channels to get a task completed or close a transaction.

Today, there’s scarcely an airline, retail bank, wireless provider, cable provider, e-commerce business, online gaming company, or internet service business that is not taking social customer service seriously. By seriously, we mean they are making a concerted effort to address customer service issues and inquiries received through social media. When a customer complains to a company over social, the customer may explain that they’ve already emailed the details of the issue, and what they’re waiting for now is an update. The customer expects the company to know who they are. They expect the company to have their back-end processes in order so that they immediately understand the context of this latest touch-point – and have a view of previous interactions in the journey. The customer also expects smooth transitions from one channel to another, and few things frustrate customers more than having to start over and explain their issue all over again. These rising social expectations are not easily addressed if the social customer service team is using a non-integrated solution.

The Need for Integration and Best Practices

Based on the study by Social Bakers, brands are only answering about 40% of all questions on Twitter, and 70% on Facebook. As social media becomes more and more established as an engagement channel, there will be reduced tolerance for ignored outreach by customers.

In order to respond at scale and drive the number of missed customer posts lower, organizations need to move towards treating the social customer service channel like any other channel. But putting a dent in the volume of those missed social posts is not easy to do if your customer service team is using the same light weight and often siloed tool that the Marketing team is using to reply to promotions and campaigns.

To overcome this, an integrated customer experience platform that incorporates all channels, including voice, email, web chat, social and SMS, with a unified approach to back-office best practices needs to be adopted. Operations need to be optimized by routing issues to any available agent with the appropriate skill – regardless of channel. When an agent addresses a customer issue via social, the agent should have a full view of the customer history across each of the different channels and touch points that the customer has had with the company. It should not be limited to the most recent tweets and Facebook posts.

It’s time for social customer service to advance beyond siloed point solutions and blend in with a unified and integrated contact center platform.

If you’d like to learn more on effectively bring social media interactions into your overall customer service operations, check out our eBook titled Bridging the Great Divide. You’ll learn how the latest best practices for integration social media and customer service. Get it here!

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