Revisiting Social Customer Care

When it comes to social business, the bright spot for social is in the contact center for customer interaction, or social customer care.

While sitting on a United flight recently, I watched their new pre-flight video about their use of social media for interacting with customers and providing support. I chuckled to myself because I’m constantly slamming United on twitter for their lack of responsiveness on social media when it comes to customer care. Even though United isn’t exactly the poster child for how to do social customer care, the fact that they included this subject in their pre-flight video demonstrates its importance.

United Twitter
Social media is still under the auspices of the marketing or digital media departments of most organizations, and is seen mainly as a way to communicate outwardly to customers, rather than as a way for customers to communicate to the organization. More and more companies are being proactive when it comes to social customer care. A couple of weeks ago I vented on Twitter about a frustrating customer service interaction with AT&T Wireless. I immediately got a Twitter response from a representative asking if there’s anything they could do to help solve my problem. Wow – they’re listening and they care! This is not what you typically expect when dealing with the phone company.

The good news is that an increasing number of companies are starting to provide customer care using social media channels, but the bad news is that for many of them, it’s still separate from their contact center operations. The customer care interactions are often triaged and filtered by the marketing department, and then sent to a specialized subset of the customer care team to resolve the customer’s issue or answer their question. A more effective approach would be to treat social media posts just like phone calls and other interactions, including queuing, routing, reporting, and recording these interactions. In a true omnichannel contact center, agents should have a holistic view of customers and all of their previous interactions with the organization, including social media interactions.

When I first started writing about social customer care a few years ago, I was hard pressed to find companies that were actually providing customer service over social media, but it’s becoming more and more common today. While social customer care is still separate from the rest of the contact center in most cases, we’re making headway.

Social Media Article Photo Courtesy of Jason. A Howie

I’m often asked whether the same agents should handle both voice interactions and social media. Having separate contact center agents for voice and social media interactions is generally a safer bet than using blended agents handling all media types. When a customer calls in to a contact center, they have a one-on-one conversation with an agent, and the conversation is generally private, which is not the case when using social media. Social channels are by their nature public, and interactions over social media can be viewed by anyone and everyone. A poor customer service experience can be viewed by hundreds, or thousands of people.

Finding the right agents with the right skills to interact with customers in this public forum is essential. Where possible, social customer care interactions should be handled by specialized social customer agents who are specially trained and skilled for social media. For smaller organizations that don’t have the resources for specialized agents, agents that handle email interactions can also be used for social media interactions, as these agents know how to write well, and don’t have to diverge their attention between spoken and written communications.

“A poor customer service experience can be viewed by hundreds, or thousands of people”

We’ve still got a long way to go until social customer care becomes mainstream, but it WILL happen. Organizations, especially B2C companies, should be developing and enhancing their social customer care strategies, which need to include policies on the following issues:

  • Who should be responsible for social media?
  • How do you best handle complaints in a public forum?
  • Who do you respond to, how quickly should you respond, and who should the response come from?
  • What do you acknowledge and what do you ignore?
  • How do you control the conversation so that your message doesn’t get drowned out?
  • What should be discussed in public and what should be “taken offline?”

A well-thought out social customer care strategy is a MUST. If you haven’t already developed your strategy, now’s the time.