2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support

2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support. Image by Pixabay. www.sociallysupportive.com

2015 Predictions for Social Customer Support. Image by Pixabay. www.sociallysupportive.com

Ah, what a year! As I prepared to write this year’s predictions, I looked back to my 2014 Predictions for Social Customer Support. I can say that from my own experience and in speaking with colleagues it seems that my predictions were accurate. Measurement is getting more precise and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are becoming easier to find. Many more customers are looking to social media before attempting to use more traditional contact methods. Companies are striving to respond faster, and when they can’t, customers are voicing their dissatisfaction. This has driven more volume, and additional staffing is required to keep up with this volume. Integration of data is easier to achieve, though still potentially costly.

As 2014 went along, I noticed something that you may have noticed as well: a distinct lack of new material being published about customer support on social media. From 2010 through 2013 there were articles and infographs and videos everywhere touting the importance of providing customer service in the social media space. Everyone was looking for the ROI, selling the ROI, selling tools, and convincing firms to join the movement quickly. Then, content seemed to decelerate in 2013, and slowed to a trickle in 2014. This led me to wonder, has the shine worn off of social media customer support? We had plenty of information explaining the benefit, urging action, and even providing some information on initial setup of a social customer care team. But the next wave of data, including early metrics and findings, was absent. Then I realized that the companies that started social customer support teams were busy learning and scaling and trying to understand the new data they were receiving.

So then, what now? What can we expect to come in 2015? Well, we know from other predictive data that companies will continue to add more funds to digital advertising budgets. We also know that customer experience is still top of mind for businesses, and they are using that data to inform internal product and process information, customer desire, and any opportunity to gain advantage in the marketplace. And there has been no visible slowdown in the number of requests for assistance coming through social media channels, or shortage of new platforms online where two-way communication is possible. Knowing that, here’s what I see coming our way in 2015.

5 Social Customer Support Predictions for 2015

  • Specific Metrics – Companies will learn from the data collected over the past few years and be able clearly glean traditional call center metrics like cost per transaction, response time, and handle time.
  • Large Scale Buy In (or Out) – Concrete facts in the form of traditional call center metrics may reveal a hard ROI based on costs to deliver social service, calls avoided at call centers, and the like.
  • Social Selling – This has been a touchy subject in the social customer support space, with most deciding that selling has no place in social media. But we may be ready to start offering suggestions for products and services where customers would truly benefit.
  • Staffing Trials – There has been discussion in the industry around whether it’s time to call social “figured out” and put it into general call center population, where reps can be added or removed from social media as volume occurs. This would make the companies that create listening and engagement tools who charge per seat very happy. It could also answer questions about staffing challenges and overhead costs. The risks can be high though, as less specialized front line reps are given access to represent the company on a very public stage. Companies may also find that when call volume spikes, social media volume spikes at the same time. This would limit the benefit gained from all that additional tool licensing and training expense.
  • Change – Yes, that’s right friends. The data we have been feeding to the C Level and other departments is powerful and has been getting noticed, if you’re doing it right. Companies will be making faster, customer-directed change to improve products and services. This should help improve customer experience and reduce customer efforts. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about in my book.

There you have it. I hope to see more of those infographs and articles that share specific insights on how social media customer support has really made a difference because consumers finally have a way to voice their opinions. But social customer support may not get the glory for these changes. For one thing, it’s not the only vehicle providing this feedback in many organizations. Customers are filling out online surveys and paper comment cards and those are working as well. For another, social media is really just a big magnifying glass that shows all the flaws a company has in product, service, policy and process, and provides opportunity for improvement. But if you have a front row seat like I do, you can have a great view of the change that social can bring about. That’s exciting stuff.

Waiting Takes Too Long for Customers

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Waiting Takes Too Long in Customer Support. image by Chris Hunkeler. www.sociallysupportive.com

Yes, you read that right. Waiting is hard and it takes too long. It’s boring. Have you noticed lately that waiting feels much more difficult than it used to? We do all kinds of things to avoid waiting. Today we tweet out our question or post it on Facebook in an attempt to avoid waiting on hold with companies. We go online and click that “chat now” button instead of walking into the store for assistance. We do not want to wait. For things like automotive repairs that cannot be completed online, UGGGHH! We have to actually go there? I hope they have wifi so I can watch something on my iPad. If not I’ll just have to scroll through Facebook on my phone.

I know, this conversation causes many people to start talking about the “good old days” before people were so connected and could sit still for a while patiently. I remember those days, and they were boring. We also had far fewer items on our to-do lists, if I remember correctly. But regardless of our positions on whether we should behave in this fashion, the reality today is that we do.

So, what do we do about it, as business people trying to please our customers? Maybe try one of these things:

  • Decrease wait times – Make every attempt to decrease your wait times. Perhaps increase staffing, decrease length of interaction (whether in person, on the phone, on social or chat)
  • Increase fun things – Even if you’ve decreased your wait times, increasing fun or distracting things will make wait time seem shorter. In person, provide a television, wifi, coloring books or games for children. On hold, play a local radio station or hold info-tainment (factual entertainment tidbits). Steer clear of bland hold music if you can.
  • Let me wait from afar – Have you called Delta lately? If they have a hold time, you can press a button to have them call you back when they’re ready for you. Then I don’t really feel like I’m holding. Or, like restaurants, give me a pager or text me when it’s my turn.

These are things about the customer experience we can control to create a more positive interaction. Some cost more than others. Hey, if a box of crayons helps my customer smile, then maybe it’s worth the price!

Infograph: Invesp.com on Great Customer Experience

Some good data from invesp.com on why a great customer experience matters.
The Importance of Providing a Great Customer Experience – Statistics and Trends

Infographic by- Invesp

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.

Update: Chase Ambushes My Twitter IPO Trade with Poor Customer Service

Cold blue light

Cold blue light (Photo credit: Daremoshiranai)

As an update, I think I lost. Or we both did. It certainly feels that way, because we’re breaking up. The goal here was really to have Chase correct a process that appeared broken. You heard the first part of the story in my last blog post, Chase Ambushes My Twitter IPO Trade with Poor Customer Service. Here’s what happened next.

That same night I complied with the bank’s instructions and, after the kids went to bed, I got online and requested the wire transfer again. I received another lovely confirmation number. I then wrote an email to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase and it read:

Jaime, 

Today I had a poor experience with a risk policy Chase has in place. While the branch staff was understanding and the Twitter support staff responded quickly, I thought I’d let you know this experience is prompting me to take my business elsewhere after more than 10 years as a customer. I’m attaching the blog post I wrote to document the event. wp.me/p3jcDY-92 
 
Take care 
Yesterday morning I checked online and the transfer had not yet completed. I called the security department and was interrogated for a few minutes before being told that my trade, placed at 8:05pm, was in queue to be approved. Later I received a call from Kati in Jamie’s executive escalations office. She seemed fully informed and ready to help. I provided her the update that more than a dozen hours later, the second wire transfer was not yet approved. She said she would call me back after her investigation.
When Twitter was ready to trade, I, sadly, was not.
Around 3pm I received a call from a cheery gentleman at E*Trade, just wanting to let me know my wire transfer had been received and was ready for trading. Boy, E*Trade has some great customer service, don’t they? That was pretty neat. To be fair, my nice branch manager called me around 1pm and I was unable to take her call. Maybe she would have told me the transfer was complete. So, we’ll say 17 hours for the wire transfer to be approved.
Right after 5pm, I received a call back from Kati. She said she would waive all the wire transfer fees for me, but indicated that the Chase process was followed and working as designed. I almost fell out of my seat. Kati said that all trades had to be rejected by 4pm, and that her team did try to call to confirm. I asked if she had checked the time of those calls, and she said she’d have to look. I shared with her that the calls came at 3:47pm and 3:49pm while I was on a conference call. So 13 minutes before they blocked web access and rejected my trade. Kati seemed unmoved and indicated the department may get backed up at times. I also explained to her that making me place the trade again myself after they ambushed it was really a poor customer experience, and the entire process could use revisiting. I explained if procedure didn’t change, that meant this could happen to me again. And by continuing to bank with Chase, I would essentially be consenting to that. I would be saying it’s more important the security process be convenient for Chase, and that it’s ok to treat me as guilty until proven innocent by “stepping” into a branch.
Well, I can’t consent to that. So, based on my conversation with Kati (which to me is the same as speaking with Jamie Dimon because if you email him, you get Kati), I have come to the conclusion that I am an acceptable loss to Chase bank. So, with a bit of sadness, after more than 10 years, we’re breaking up.

Make Feedback Easy

Hampton Inn

Hampton Inn (Photo credit: Mark Sardella)

Last night my family and I stayed in a Hampton Inn in Greenwood, Mississippi. It’s a small town on Highway 82. There are several hotels in town, many with (I’m fairly certain) comparable amenities and features. I do recall the bed being pretty comfortable. But that’s not the most memorable part of the stay.

The most memorable part of our stay was Mary. The Hampton Inn offers free breakfast like so many hotel chains do these days. Ours in Greenwood had a rather nice setup, with just about everything you could want, short of a line cook and a hot grill. As my family and I wandered in, Mary came straight out to meet us. She said good morning. She doted over the kids. She made meal suggestions and pointed us to utensils and extra napkins. As a matter of fact, Mary came out of the kitchen every time a guest came through and treated them as though they were relatives in her very own kitchen at her own house. And not the relatives you wish would leave, but the favorite ones you’ve been waiting to see, and really hope have a good time and want to come back.

Before we left, Mary came out with a couple apples and bananas. She said we should take them for the girls, you know, in case they got hungry later in the car. We drove several more hours before making it back to Atlanta, unloaded the car and got situated, and I’m still thinking about Mary.

There were other positive things about the hotel stay, too. The night clerk (I didn’t catch her name) was very nice when I rang down and asked if I could stop by to pick up extra shampoo. She had a few bottles waiting for me at the front desk by the time I got down, and made sure to ask if I needed anything else and assure me that anything I needed, I should let her know.

So… you know what’s frustrating? I was so pleased with Mary that I wanted to let Hampton Inn know right away. I mean, as my husband drove us out of the parking lot I was on the iPhone looking for their Facebook page to tell them. And I couldn’t find them. Well, really, they had many custom pages for different particular hotels, one page that could have been them but it was hard to tell on the phone view. And then when I visited the site I couldn’t clearly find a place for compliments or suggestions. With cell reception in Greenwood being what it is, the slow speed got me frustrated and I decided it would have to wait. The result being that I’m blogging before I’m able to let Mary’s employers know that she is awesome.

My suggestion is to make feedback easy for customers. Where’s your Facebook page? Can I find it? Do I know it’s really the one I’m looking for? Is it easy to find you on Twitter? Don’t make me email you. Don’t make me mail you a letter. That sounds hard. You may miss out on my compliments.

I will do those things for Mary, because man, that lady was awesome. If you’re looking for someone to really make your guests feel at home, run out to the Hampton Inn in Greenwood, MS around breakfast time and go see Mary. But if you want to know before my blog readers do that you already have a Mary in your employ, I suggest you make feedback really easy.

Say Cheese, Team!

Limburger cheese

Limburger cheese (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Speaking of personifying brand image, a great way to do this is with photos of your support team displayed proudly on your customer support tab. I’ve seen this done a few ways.

One popular choice is a static group shot depicting the entire social media customer support team. These look good, and I think customers may perceive a sense of closeness among team members. The image can convey to a customer “We are a close team, and if another team member helped you before, I can pick up seamlessly where she left off.” On the other hand, any team turnover on the team causes you to break out the camera again.

Another approach I’ve seen is  individual head shots of each team member. Some layouts allow the visitor to click-through to different team members, while others automatically scroll. Sometimes short bios are included, but I’m not convinced these are necessary. I think I like it better when the agent’s name is displayed simply with the head shot. With individual shots, I think using the same background for each photo helps add a consistent feel.

In either case, I think reps wearing crisp polos in company colors with the company logo adds a nice touch. It helps team members look pulled together. Professional photography looks best, but if that isn’t practical in keeping up with each team member, try to develop consistent guidelines around how to shoot the pictures. Use the same location, the same chair, have the photographer a set distance from the person being photographed, etc. Also, I would recommend getting formal releases from each employee and keeping them on file.

So, grab your team, grab a camera, and take some photos. Happy snapping!

Sign Your Name

English: marcelina fernandez signature. Españo...

English: marcelina fernandez signature. Español: Firma de marcelina fernandez. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may seem obvious, but I think it deserves stating. In social media, especially in a corporate social media channel, it’s so important to sign your name at the end of your post. If you are using a page or handle that other people also use, make sure there is a signature on that post.

Social media is the perfect vehicle to personify brand image with cheery, helpful customer support representatives. Customers can develop a relationship with the person that helps them, and warm feelings associated with a particular representative are then (hopefully) associated to the brand itself. If you can achieve this, you have something special going on with your social presence.

In order for this personification to occur, the customer must be able to identify the person they are interacting with and remember that person. People cannot identify with or build a relationship with a nameless string of text coming at them through social media. People can identify with Patty, or Bob, or Sarah.

So, go ahead and sign that tweet. It makes a difference.

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?