Connections Into Social Customer Support

Plug

Plug (Photo credit: Samuel M. Livingston)

Here’s the thing. I do believe in treating social customer support as an escalation path. I know, there are many people that gasp and say we’re training customers to do the wrong thing. People say we are teaching customers to contact us through public social channels first because they will be satisfied more quickly there. And they say that this is bad, because people will flock to the channel for special attention. But I disagree. Under one condition.

I think the social customer support department has to have a direct line into all departments that can make things happen. Yep. That’s what I said. That’s tricky, and it requires a certain corporate culture.

If you can take a social inquiry and get it to the front of the line where it can be immediately solved, that looks great. But the power behind that, the part that’s real, is being able to reach deep down into that issue and solve for root cause. I mean, while you’re in there, fix it for the 1000+ people who felt the same but didn’t complain, right? And then the actual benefit to the organization is the fact that you saved calls into your call centers and improved customer experience by eliminating the problem entirely. Social bubbles up so quickly that you can be made aware of a problem, size it, troubleshoot it and solve it in a fraction of the time it takes the traditional call center path to ignite.

But I’m not sure you can do that without direct links into each business area. And creating those relationships takes a lot of outreach, charisma, and daring. Other business units may not appreciate the value of social customer care, and may feel threatened by the exposure social customer care brings. Let’s face it, social care is scary at first. So, I’d say there’s work to be done there. But to be truly impactful to customers, and by extension, your shareholders, I’m thinking it requires taking the plunge to forge relationships, start discussions, provide education and information on the benefits that customer support on social media can provide.

The standard point of view is that people are already out there complaining about you in social. We’re still trying to get used to the idea of publicly admitting fault or error, and so the whole concept is daunting. But if you’re not a part of the conversation, you can’t add your point of view. And if your part of the conversation doesn’t add real value, it’s just fluff. Solving a single customer problem, then learning from it and removing it from your entire customer base is, well… that’s kind of impressive, right? As a customer, I’m impressed by that.

Speak or Hold Your Peace In Tragedy

Daily Shoot-Condolence Card

Daily Shoot-Condolence Card (Photo credit: NedraI)

I’ve seen several articles online discussing whether a brand should post on social media to offer condolences or thoughts to those that have suffered a loss or tragedy. Without going into detail about who said what or had which opinion, I’d like to simply offer mine.

If the point of social media for business is to personify a brand image, and we are asking our community managers to put their personalities out there for the public, I think it makes sense that if we want to make appropriate posts regarding the tragedy, we should. I think scheduled sales posts should surely stop in impacted areas. If the impacts of the tragedy are broadly felt, then it may make sense to withhold brand posts for the entire customer area. I think that depends on the particular issue.

Here’s why. People that work at companies and provide social media in an impacted area could be feeling the same thing that the community feels, because they ARE the community. They leave work and travel home in cars or on busses or on the subway. Their children attend schools in the area. Their spouses and potentially their extended family also live and work in that area. Refraining from comment on the tragedy certainly doesn’t feel authentic or transparent in those cases.

I think the important thing is to carefully consider whether a post is appropriate and what that post should be. I’ve seen posts say that brands have no feelings and no personality. But I disagree. I disagree because brands are powered by people, and those people have real feelings and thoughts. True, the employees collectively represent the brand and try to convey a message that makes sense with brand objectives. But if we saw a customer in a retail setting, and that customer had suffered a loss, I hope that we would not hesitate before offering our sympathies to that customer. Because though it’s business, the fact that we’re all doing it together should make it personal.

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