This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions magazine.
Social media has been the fastest growing communication category for several years now. Whether MySpace early on, Twitter, Facebook (News - Alert), YouTube, or LinkedIn more recently, or the latest social craze, Pinterest, users have flocked to social applications at a furious pace. Which of these do you use? Odds are, more than one, if not all of them in some capacity.
So, it makes sense that businesses are finding ways to incorporate social media into their customer service environments.It’s much easier to provide customer care in an environment in which your customers convene, virtual or not. Or rather, it’s impossible to provide it where they don’t.
But, the difficulty that remains is how to go about it. There have been a vast number of contact center and CRM vendors that have incorporated social media into their platforms. In fact, if you talk to most vendors, they would agree that companies want to do “something” with social media, but aren’t sure how to go about it.
In addition to the technology issue, there is also the question of who – which individuals or groups within an organization – should be responsible for social media. Should it be a completely separate group of CSRs? Should social be rolled into the existing agent base’s responsibilities? Or should an entirely new social media unit be added to handle this new communications modality?
Most social media experts also agree aside from determining a social course of action, listening is the first step in the process. Listening can be very useful in understanding general market sentiment, but response to social chatter is something altogether different – and significantly more challenging.
As a social channel user, take a look at your Facebook or Twitter (News - Alert) feeds. How many friends do you have? How many people do you follow? With each new friend you add or account you follow, your feeds become more massive by the day, especially as more and more users learn just how convenient mobile apps have made social sharing.
So now consider a comment from a customer that you’ve decided warrants response. Your strategy is to communicate back using the same social channels through which you heard the initial comment. This raises a set of potential issues beyond your initial entry into the social space, ones that are largely dependent upon the behavior of your customers in their social realms.
The questions you have to ask when responding to social media activity are several, and they aren’t easy to answer. At the very least, they help highlight the fact that social media as a business tool isn’t nearly as easy as using it on personal level. But, if you are able to answer these questions, and actively engage following a prescribed set of rules defined by those actions, you will eventually see a positive swing in customer satisfaction and revenue.
1. How should you determine the best channel through which to communicate with your clients?
2. Should you invest resources into adding social media accounts into your customer information database?
3. Is your social media response designed to illicit action or response?
4. What is a reasonable time frame to expect customers to read social responses and take some action?
5. What is your strategy if that action does not occur?
6. How much time are you willing to dedicate to a single client or interaction?
7. How much and what kind of social response are your customers willing to accept?
8. What processes are in place to track the results of your social engagements with each customer?
9. How should your strategy and expectations vary for different social channels?
10. How long should you wait to determine the relative value of each social interaction, or your social response initiative as a whole?
These answers won’t come overnight. In fact, you will only be able to begin to understand the second five questions after having run your strategy for a significant period of time. The message is that, despite social media – especially in today’s mobile environment – being very much a real-time medium, its overall impact will be slow to emerge, and will require patience, monitoring, evaluation, and multiple strategy tweaks. But, if you take time to understand your customers, it will pay off.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi