2014 Predictions for Social Customer Support

Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball (Photo credit: justin_a_glass)

Wow, is it time for predictions already? Things move fast in social, and to me it seems the whole year has flown by.

Marketers are predicting that more money will be spent on social media next year because of its attractive price tag and its ability to reach consumers where they are. There is also chatter about whether Google+ will gain traction this year, and questions around how Snapchat will factor in.

Regardless of the platform, it seems that the concepts of social listening and customer support are here to stay. The changing venues of this listening may create some challenges in the customer support department as we scramble to get the feed from the latest new location. Thankfully,  monitoring tools have made tremendous advances and many are able to add sites very quickly to get the data needed. 

5 Social Customer Support Predictions for 2014

  • Measurement – Listening and engagement tools are not only developing rapidly, but specializing as well. This should enable us to move away from soft metrics on social care and get insight to some really neat things, like cost per transaction, handle time, and the like.
  • First Stop: Social Media – Historically, many customers reached out on social media out of frustration with traditional channels, and as a last resort. As social care proves to be a handy option, I think we might see some customers head straight for social media.
  • Push for Faster Response Times – Customers want responses right now. Engagement tools are increasingly able to help us respond more quickly. Seems we may see a trend toward decreasing response times.
  • More Volume, Staffing Increase – As our friends in marketing spend more ad dollars on social (as their 2014 predictions say), and customers come to us first expecting faster response times (boy I’m starting to feel like that song, “On the first day of Christmas” where the list gets longer and longer), we’ll probably need more staff to support that. Take those good operational metrics with you when you ask for that headcount; you’ll probably need them!
  • Integration – Now that social care is established and collecting customer feedback, expect that feedback to be integrated into other departments.

So, what about this concept that if everyone is complaining, it should start to matter less as our senses dull? I do agree that with so many customers sharing their brand experiences it may be more challenging for stories to go viral; however I don’t think that provides any safety to companies. It seems that the general impression your brand makes on consumers as a whole may rise above the din of countless individual stories to leave a lasting impression. We saw this with the cancelled Chase Bank #AskJPM Twitter Q&A. Though you may not have read every comment, the overall sentiment was pretty clear.

I’m excited to see what 2014 holds for social customer support. We have the opportunity to be personal at scale, and then understand what our customers are telling us to better serve their needs.

Sound Advice from Entrepreneur Magazine

Social Media Outposts

Social Media Outposts (Photo credit: the tartanpodcast)

Entrepreneur Magazine posted this article by Jason Fell last month titled 4 Quick Tips for Using Social Media for Customer Service. He provides some sound advice on delivering customer care through social media.

His first tip is to keep a separate Twitter handle for support issues. I think this is a great way to not only separate out customer support inquiries from marketing efforts, but also provides an excellent opportunity to create a brand for your support. Branding your company’s help handle shows consumers the company takes customer experience and satisfaction seriously.

Before purchasing something new, I frequently seek feedback online. One great way to check the state of an organization’s customer service is to visit Facebook or Twitter to see what the public is really saying about a brand. I’ve found it true that any customer service flaw a company has can be greatly magnified on social media.

Secondly, he speaks to the importance of first contact resolution. I fully recommend this whenever you can pull it off. It can be tricky, but if you put some detective work into it, many times it’s possible to figure out who the customer is, find that account information and just reply back with an answer to the problem. It’s a bit tough if location information isn’t given, but I think it’s worth the time to give it your best shot.

Fell’s third tip deals with crisis. Crisis can be tricky. I would argue that unless your crisis impacts all or a great majority of your customers, consider benefit of broad proactive communication against the cost. If you can specifically geotarget a proactive post to impacted parties, I recommend it. But overuse of broad updates could start to be construed as spam to those unaffected. It would be a shame to have good corporate intentions result in a pile of messages to unimpacted customers that could serve to erode faith in the brand’s performance. I also say if you have a limited number of customers impacted by the crisis, though it may be painful, you might want to try answering each individual social inquiry, regardless of whether you have a proactive tweet or post out there. This, of course, depends on staffing constraints, but if you can reply with short, personalized responses to all the incoming questions, it can look much more responsive. I do acknowledge this is sometimes just not possible.

I fully agree with Jason’s point that training is a must-have. Traditional call center conversations take place on the phone where information is shared in a dyadic setting. Social customer support happens in a very public place. Thorough training and communication of expectations can really make the difference between simmering down a social site to boiling one over in short order.

Check out the article, I highly recommend it. I’m also interested in your thoughts.

Delta Orders Pizzas

English: Delta Airlines Cookies snack.

English: Delta Airlines Cookies snack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut (Photo credit: PatrickOhnewein)

Delta used its Facebook account to showcase customer care that exceeded normal practice. During a three-hour wait on the tarmac caused by weather delays, airport employees ordered pizza for passengers waiting on the airplane. NBCNEWS.com’s Ben Popken reported the flight left Boston headed to Atlanta Monday night, but had to divert to Knoxville due to weather in the Atlanta area.

Delta shared the link to the story on their own Facebook page today, with this comment: “30 pizzas on us. Big props to this Delta crew for thinking on their toes – and with their stomachs: http://on.today.com/16K8tuE“.

Within two hours, the post had been shared over 200 times and received 147 comments, with sentiment trending toward positive.

Now, this story isn’t exactly social customer care, but it does speak to great customer service in the field that can produce social brand ambassadors when posted online.

What do you think about this?

Facebook Launching Ranked and Threaded Comments

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

InsideFacebook reported yesterday that Facebook will be rolling out the ability for users to respond directly to individual post comments. Further, ranking based on individual Facebook user connections and level of post engagement will be applied. So, for example, let’s use Bob and Harry. If Bob’s friend Harry commented on a post, or replied to a comment on a post, it seems Harry’s comment could be displayed to Bob before other comments. It also seems that the comments with the most engagement may be displayed higher in the thread than those receiving fewer responses.

What can this mean to social customer care? Potentially many things. When customers are pleased with an event, this can positively drive brand embassador comments right to the top of a thread. Conversely, if customers are upset about a recent price increase, or are rallying for a service to be provided, one comment by a customer can be echoed by many customers very quickly. This is what I call the “pile on phenomenon”. Raising these detractor comments to the top of the pile can encourage more and more customers to weigh in because they are more visible, and because many other people have already weighed in, there is more perceived safety in responding.

In the InsideFacebook article, Britany Darwell reports that page admins will be able to reduce the post ranking without deleting the post, though the procedure for that is not mentioned. It is also unknown whether any social care-focused listening tools will be able to automate the process of post rank reduction.

How do you think this change could impact social customer care?