Social media is changing the way we do business. From industry to industry this emerging trend is taking shape and making an impact. One industry that has seen significant disruption from social media is customer service. An industry that has remained unchanged for decades is now needing to make accommodations for the conversations and public forums that are available for people to voice their opinions about the company and its brand.

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How is social media changing customer service?

For years, customer service has been a two-way conversation between the customer and the company. Through phone calls, support tickets, and in-person interactions, customers could get in contact with a brand by asking questions or voicing concerns by these means and the interaction typically stopped there. The frustrations and disappointments would only make it as far as the support agents and maybe a few friends that would hear about the customer service experience through word of mouth. But these days social media has taken that two-way conversation and broadcast it in way that it can be heard by many people across the world. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ have given each consumer a platform to share their experiences - good or bad, and frequently consumers are willing to voice their opinions about brands and products. Further, knowing that 92% of people say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising it is especially important to make sure you are using social media to handle at least part of your customer service channels.

Why should we be on social media?

It has always been said that to understand your customer, you must go where your customer is. And in many cases, your customer is on social media. Facebook now boasts over 1 billion users so there’s no denying that your customers aren't engaging on some sort of social media platform. And they are likely talking and sharing on these sites as well. By creating a social media presence you’ll be giving your customers another, more immediate way to get in contact with your brand. This proactive step not only makes social media an option for customer service but will provide you with an additional outlet to educate and inform your customer base. Social media bridges the gap between corporations and consumers by humanizing the experience with the company and their products or services.

How can you monitor the social web?

Understanding the conversation that take place on social media can be overwhelming if you aren't prepared. Much like customer support tickets inquiries via social media can fluctuate significantly between days and even hours so monitoring the web is crucial to managing a successfully social customer service program.

General Monitoring

General monitoring refers to regularly checking messages, comments, and tweets that are directed to your company’s social media pages. This kind of general monitoring can easily be done by logging into the native site and checking for notifications for updates from followers.

Keyword Based Monitoring

Keyword monitoring differs from general monitoring in the fact that it does not have to be a direct social media interaction onto a company’s Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account. Keyword monitoring via a tool like Cision can surface mentions of keywords relating to a company or industry across social media platforms. For this information to be surfaced, it will need to match pre-determined keywords set up within the tool. Monitoring using keywords will give you a greater view into what is being talking about on the entire social web.

What employees need to know when handling customer service via social media?

Social media is the most public forum available for customer service and because of its nature it is important to be mindful of all responses handled through this channel. Similar to traditional customer service, responses to inquiries on social media should be timely, friendly, and informative. However, responses needn’t be as long or in-depth as one that might come out of a support ticket. You can always ask the customer to submit a support ticket should they need further clarification on the matter. Agents should be trained on how each platform works and the terminology that relates to each. Each platform has its own personality and etiquette so customer service responses should be tailored to reflect these differences. The organization should also determine if responses will come from one social media account on each platform or if agents are allowed to answer customer service inquiries via their personal accounts. If the decision is to go with the latter, privacy settings and policies need to be in place to protect your employees.

Things to Consider Before Moving to Social Customer Service

  • Using social media for customer service may require additional hiring and training to get agents up to speed.
  • Social media is extremely public and visible to other fans on your site. Be prepared with a crisis plan should something go wrong.
  • Customers using social media as a way to contact your brand will expect a shorter SLA than traditional customer service. Consider an SLA of 1-2 hours.
  • Negative feedback will be more apparent on social media than on other customer service outlets. Be prepared with consistent responses to negative posts.

How will social media change my agents’ workflow?

By adding social media as a customer service option, agents should be prepared for a change of pace. Social media moves faster than traditional customer service outlets like phone and email. There can also be confusion for teams working to resolve customer service inquires via social media at the same time. To manage agents’ workflow, set clear guidelines on when to respond, delegate which agents own what types of tasks, and track customer service interaction in a CRM tool or social customer service tool. When searching for a social customer service tool, consider tools that have the ability for Team Management. This should include the option to create organizations based on a Teams function like Sales or Customer Service or based on which platform parts of teams will handle like Facebook or Twitter. Another important consideration is the use of permissions. Choose a tool that allows admins to assgin tasks to agents of an organization. Agents can then leave notes about the interaction and change the status of the interaction. Having clear policies in place can help to eliminate any confusion or overlap when handling social customer service.

How can I measure social media service?

Measuring Key Performance Indicators for customer service is important no matter the platform you are using to handle customer service. However there are a few new KPIs to measure when handling social media through social media. These include social sentiment - or the tone of the interaction. The social sentiment can be pinpointed for one interaction or they can be grouped together to see a larger perspective of your online social sentiment. Also the number of interactions on social media should be considered as a KPI. Social media interactions should be limited and brought off social media should the issue continue. Using a tool that has advance reporting features will allow managers to see how social customer service efforts are fairing compared to traditional methods.

Best Practices for Social Customer Service

Engage

  • Interact with your fans on social media by curating content that pertains to your company or industry and that would be of interest to your community.
  • Respond to posts and messages left on your social media account to let fans know that you are seeing their posts.
  • Ask questions, introduce promotions, and encourage fan to share their experiences with your brand.

Listen

  • Listen to feedback left through social media just as you would with traditional customer service. If this means logging the feedback, make sure to do so.

Monitor

  • Review your social media notifications regularly. Depending on the activity of your community this could be every ten minutes, half hour, or hour.
  • Monitor keywords about your brand to know of any customer service opportunities that aren't directed at you or left on your social media accounts. •
  • Use Cision media monitoring to alert you whenever a news source, blog, or website writes content about you.

Educate

  • As a way to engage your fan base on social media, educate them on your brand, history, product development, and more.
  • Communicate sales, promotions, service interruptions, and product issues via social media to keep your fans informed.

Task Management and Follow Up

  • Many times inquiries on social media need to be resolved through email or phone calls after the initial correspondence. Set up proper task management workflow so that social media interactions don’t fall through the cracks.
  • Keep track of all customer interactions in your CRM tool and use a social media management tool like Cision to help bridge the gap between customer service and social media.

Crisis Plan

  • Create a detailed crisis plan to have if a situation arises. The crisis plan can include information on how employees should respond to questions about PR issues via social media, how to craft a consistent message for all social media channels, what method the company will take to respond to customers - either by mass messaging or individually. Having a crisis plan in place can help you avoid a crisis all together.