4 Strategic Steps to winning the ‘Game of Thrones’ in Social Customer Service.

We have ascertained in the previous articles that our customers are on Social Media. They are researching products and services by getting advice from peers and reading reviews. They are also directing support questions to businesses as well. Social media is becoming a force on customer experience.

Most brands understand that they must have a presence on Social. Social Media is a volatile communication medium. An increase in customer satisfaction and revenue growth is possible. Customer service via social media or Social Customer Service is not a passing fad.  To achieve success in Social Customer Service, You need a plan.  Where do you start? Companies need a strategy for establishing, maintaining, and integrating customer support channels. It is not enough to open the door if no one is there to greet the customer.

Take a look at your mission, vision and value statements. How can your brand draw on social media to support business objectives? How can Social Media help to build and maintain a relationship with your target audience?  Remember that your activities within your Social Channels must align with your brand’s mission and business objectives.

In this article, we discuss key steps in formulating a Social Customer Strategy.  These steps can transform your customer’s experience with your brand. A good Social Customer Service plan can win a place in their hearts. With regards to your competition, you win at the ‘Game of Thrones’.

  1. Analyze your current state

One of the best ways of doing this is through listening and observation.

  1. If you are already active on Social Media you need to analyze customer activities on your page(s) and understand the kind of issues which usually come up:
  • Are the requests coming from your customer’s technical, how-to questions?
  • Frustrations on poor customer service experiences offline?
  • What are some of the major issues customers contact you on social media with?  – See figure 1.
Tigo Customer Service on FB
Using Social Media for Customer Service – 4 steps to a winning strategy

Figure 1-

  • Examine how you have used your social channels for customer service so far
  • Which of your social platforms are mostly used by your customers to request for support?
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis of your social channels. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are the threats and opportunities in your environment? Businesses should analyze their interactions -across all channels.  This determines whether they can benefit from Social Customer Service.  This analysis will also show how they can become more proactive and engaging. Let an expert help you if you find this a bit of a challenge.
  • Study the ways your unique set of customers behave on Social Media. What channels are they using? This will determine which social sites are relevant for your brand and industry.

Listening helps you plan and get an idea about the levels of resourcing required. It will also help you to establish your goals. Observing will help you determine the platforms or tools to invest in.

  1. Define and determine objectives

How do you want to use your Social Media for your customers?  You have to let this align with your brand’s mission and vision. “To be number one in Africa”, means your social channels are also serving Africa in terms of language, time and other cultural issues. Outline the service issues you want to resolve with your presence on Social Media. Flesh these out into your objectives. Like all business planning your objectives have to be smart.

  1. Carve out strategies

Identify associated plans, for example, staffing, facilities, time commitments, marketing, and financial plansThe strategy should define:

Technology: software and platforms

Bigger brands may need cross-functional teams to work on their Social Customer Service. For efficiency, and effectiveness these teams may need a common platform.  This will help such teams to collaboratively track customers.  Such tools also help the team to engage with customers on social channels. See a review of some of these tools in the digital toolkit section of this page.

You would also have to consider your tools. Are you purchasing new Social Customer Service tools? What type of training will staff require to successful use these tools?

 Triage processes

What type of posts will need responses – all posts? Complaints? Direct comments? Casual mentions? Put together a triage map.

A triage map may contain procedures, responsibilities and key performance indicator’s as indicated below:

o   Monitoring – comments, replies, mentions.

o   Filtering, prioritizing and escalating service requests and issues.

o   Lead generation – involves proactively seeking feedback not directly communicated to the brand.

Roles, responsibilities, and cross-functional collaborations

Decide who will be responsible for your social customer service. Will you outsource or use an in-house team(s). If you decide on an in-house team you will call for staff training.  This can also be up-skilling. How would you constitute your Social Customer Service team? Will it be Cross-functional or seasonal project teams for peak seasons? Admissions seasons in Universities, for example, are peak times for customer queries. The University may need experts from across departments to handle their Social Customer Service. After you constitute a team:

o   define roles and responsibilities of team members.

o   develop action plans that specify who is going to do what and by when to achieve each goal.

Most big brands need collaborative teams to handle social media. They also need to combine efforts across other digital marketing efforts. For example, when developing Smartphone applications and websites.

 Employee education

Customer Service Teams require training for the particular requirements of social media. Team training will be discussed in detail in our next article.

Responses, policies, and procedures

Get an idea of responses that your customers may require by listening and analyzing. After analyzing and listening to:

  • the what (– they are saying),
  • where (– they are saying it),
  • and who (- is saying it) you can develop your responses.

You have to develop guiding principles for your Social Customer Service Team. This should be based on your organizational Customer Service Policy. Take note of the nature of social media when drafting such a policy. Again an expert can be of help in this area.

The tone and nature of your answers are also important. Are you a playful brand or a serious brand? Will a mascot fit your brand image or every team member who posts and responds will sign? Social media gives you the space to exhibit the nature of your brand.  Take advantage and craft, tailored, standard, bespoke responses. Planning your responses does not mean giving scripted answers. Use the script as a foundation to empathize with the customer.

Crisis Mapping:  Develop a crisis map. Train your response team on what to do when there is a crisis.  Develop possible crisis scenarios in your industry. A crisis plan will help deal with most social PR disasters.

Tip.  If you expect volumes in service requests, dedicate a Social Channel just for Customer Service. 

  1. Implement and evaluate

Metrics should be based on goals. Set Key Performance indicators to test the success of your Social Customer Service.  Use a grading scale to check response rate versus time taken to respond. Tracking and monitoring are critical. Social Customer Service is a commitment of your resources.  Ensure that Social Customer Service is helping you achieve your business goals. Measure demand volumes, customer sentiment, issue categorization and response rates. This will give you an accurate picture of the discussions around your brand. It will also be a measure of your team’s ability to make a difference. The following are some ways in which to measure your Social Customer Service performance:

  • Surveys – to access customer satisfaction levels
  • Resolution rates
  • Reduction of customer contact loads on other channels

With good social customer service analytics, you can improve your brand’s profitability.

Measure:

  • Productivity that is, the number of requests responded to.
  • Efficiency – time it took to respond and
  • Expectation/satisfaction of your customers

Smaller brands may not be able to afford some of the Software and technologies for Social Customer Service. They can, however, leverage the generic analytics within social channels (See figure 2).

SCS strategies - metrics

Figure 2 – An example of a generic Facebook analytic. It captures response rate and response time. This can be used for simple analysis of Customer Service efforts.

Tip:  Make sure your customers know about your dedicated support channels. Some customer education is required. Leave your social help addresses in your communication – flyers, brochures, receipts etc.

Choose platforms for service when implementing your strategy. Use the data from your analysis and findings. Determine which Social Media platforms to use for Customer Service. You can consider where customers are active for instance, channels with the highest engagement.  Study where customers contact you most – in other words where you have high ‘followership’.

Facebook is a giant in Social Media. You can use third-party applications to manage customer queries.  An example is MTN Ghana’s review application. See figure 3.

review

Figure 3 – the reviews application. This is good for measuring sentiments about your brand. Use the data you gather to improve customer service.

Queries on Twitter are succinct because of the 140 character limit. Customers usually take to Twitter to vent their sentiments. Accordingly most social brand scandals start on Twitter.  Figure 4 is an example of a Twitter customer support handle. Note that they boldly display their open hours.

vodafon education

Figure 4 – it is prudent to display your business hours prominently.  Customers should not expect a response if they contact you after hours.

Tip for Lead generation: sift out questions or comments that indicate interest in a product/service.

Conclusion

Always remember that a great customer service interaction can foster brand advocates. Great customer service is all about bringing happy, satisfied customers back.  Be cautious about opening the support floodgates and spreading your organization too thin. Opening new channels increases contacts. This also raises expectations that you are available on that channel for the customer. This is a good thing, but your organization must live up to it.

Have you implemented a social customer service strategy? What challenges and difficulties are you experiencing? Share your comments below the post for this article on www.facebook.com/exactmediagh or http://www.exactmedia.wordpress.com.

Digital Toolkit

The technology exists to make your social customer service easier. Use these tools to scour your social channels for keywords you are on the lookout. Some allow you to queue interactions, assign them to particular agents, and measure performance. Let’s discuss some below:

Zendesk – “Zendesk is a leading cloud-based customer service software solution. Over 50,000 customer accounts use Zendesk to increase customer satisfaction”Zendesk has a free trial – try it and see if it will fit in with the demands on the company’s Social Customer Service. “Zendesk brings companies and their customers closer together” Visit https://www.zendesk.com/ for more information.

 Conversocial. – is a social customer service software which allows brands to manage the flow of customer service inquiries and discussions efficiently and securely on a large scale on social media channels. Visit www.conversocial.com for more information.

Hootsuite .- HootSuite is a social relationship platform for businesses and organizations to collaboratively execute campaigns across social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ Pages from one secure, web-based dashboard. Advanced functionality includes tools for audience engagement, team collaboration, account security and comprehensive analytics for end-to-end measurement and reporting. To learn more, visit http://www.hootsuite.com/

Sprout Social – Sprout Social is a social media management tool created to help businesses find new customers & grow their social media presence. You can try it for free. Visit www. sproutsocial.com

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