By Nicolette de Wit, CEO of Intuate Group

JOHANNESBURG – September 10, 2015 – In recent years, technologies have given social interactions the speed and scale of the Internet.  Today, customer experience (CX) on social media is the hot concept for 2015. Businesses know how to deploy phone, e-mail and chat customer service solutions – they’ve been doing it for years – but now, with significant increases in social media interactions, they need to have plans in place to handle these as well.

Whether discussing consumer products or organising political movements, people around the world constantly use social media platforms to seek and share information.  The stats for complaints alone are jaw-dropping; according to a 2014 study by VB Insight on social media, unhappy customers post a staggering 879 million complaint messages on social channels each year.  Companies need a strategy to cope with these interactions, but delivering the right level of social customer service for your brand can be a challenge, especially when it comes to integrating with traditional platforms.

Time sensitivity: response rates and times

Customer expectations on response times are high across social media channels.  However, the time it takes for businesses to respond to customer queries on social media varies considerably, but the overwhelming majority aren’t meeting customer expectations – or worse, they’re not responding at all. Research from The Social Habit found that 42 percent of social media users said they expect a customer support response within the hour. More critically, Convince and Convert revealed that 57 percent of customers expect the same response time at night and at weekends as they do for normal business hours.  And there is a price to pay for this.  According to Gartner, not answering customers on social channels can lead to a 15 percent increase in the churn rate for existing customers.  Increasing your response rates and decreasing your response times should be a real priority.  For the large business that has dedicated customer support staff to deal with these enquiries, this should be less problematic.

Smaller businesses are unlikely to have this, but there are still a number of options to help them respond in a timely manner, while making sure it doesn’t take up too much time:

  1. Set up alerts and notifications. Either set up e-mail or app notifications to let you know when you’ve got a mention or a message.
  2. Allocate time to respond properly. Don’t just rely on standard response rates – make sure your answers are personal and written sensitively.  Remember also that social has its own rules and tone of voice.  This can be daunting, your responses are in the public gaze and how you engage with your customers can change perceptions of how they, and anyone else who happens to see the conversation, see your brand – for better or worse.
  3. Monitor your brand so you can respond to complaints or posts even when your business isn’t tagged.  Today, there are various approaches to monitor social media.  The most successful brands use sophisticated monitoring services that track comments, trends and geographies. However, this is not just about information; it’s about knowledge and decision support, and how will that information be analysed and put to use.
  4. Always respond publicly.  You won’t always be able to discuss the issue publicly, but even if this is the case, you should respond publicly and ask to take the discussion offline, which can prevent the issue escalating online.  If dealt with sensitively, a phone call or detailed e-mail can also be more effective than several 140 character tweets – and quicker in resolving the issue.  You may also have to acknowledge that sometimes a consumer won’t be interested in the resolution and will only want to disrupt your business with negative comments.
  5. Give them different avenues to complain.  True social media engagement is about connecting reactively and proactively with customers and prospects in the most appropriate manner; for example, if they’ve got a lengthy query or complaint, it may be better to direct them to a complaints form on your website, so they aren’t restricted to the character limit on Twitter or direct them to a telephone number so they can contact you directly.  The ability of companies to deliver a seamless Omni-channel experience across customer interactions is only as good as their data.  Those that continue to rely on disconnected channels, keeping their data in operational silos, are failing to extract the inherent value of their knowledge about their customers.  By failing to enable a unified view of the customer based upon the customer journey – including for instance content marketing, customer journey mapping, channels and touchpoints – companies aren’t capitalising on the context they can bring to each interaction, and are instead providing the same set of generic interactions that inevitably lead to a poor customer experience.  Fully leveraging each customer’s context and combining it with effective business rules, will allow companies to deliver a more satisfying customer experience.
  6. Be proactive.  If you’re getting the same queries or complaints, then work out what you can do to solve the issue.  For questions, it may just be setting up an FAQ page or adapting your content/service so that it’s clearer.  If a particular product receives similar complaints, investigate what you can do to solve it – is it a problem of quality or customer expectations?
  7. Set customer expectations.  Set standards on when you aim to reply to them and publish this on your website or via social media, so they know when they can expect a response back.
  8. Measure engagement.  Managing customer interactions over social media carries unique challenges for companies, particularly as the volume and breadth of social interactions continues to grow daily.  Frequently this leads to missed actionable messages and opportunities for customer engagement.  You need to measure engagement to be able to manage the social customer service you provide, demonstrate value alongside traditional channels, improve agent performance, and justify investment.  KPIs on social are similar to those for voice, e-mail and chat but they should always be driven by a commitment to early resolution.
  9. Analyse.  Effective analytics will help companies to quickly cut through the noise to find the messages that really matter by identifying trends around issues, problems, questions, value gain and team performance; filtering and prioritising data; understanding user intention; and enhancing the quality of engagement by gaining insight into missed actionable opportunities.
  10. Enterprise-wide integration.  Companies will go on developing ways to reach consumers through social technologies and gathering insights for product development, marketing, and customer service.  Yet the McKinsey Global Institute finds that twice as much potential value lies in using social tools to enhance communications, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within and across enterprises.  MGI’s estimates suggest that by fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers – high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals – by 20 to 25 percent.  The critical factor in empowering the social enterprise is a technological infrastructure capable of automating the business process transformation by capturing and prioritising social media content and interactions as part of the customer record, escalating as needed and routing to the appropriate person with full visibility from start to resolution.

About Intuate Group

Intuate Group is a privately owned, broad based IT company that focuses on providing professional, integrated technology and people resources solutions.  Its services encompass the provision of state-of-the-art contact centre solutions, customer experience management solutions that enable a 360 degree view of the customer, the supply and implementation of best-of-breed IT solutions, as well as IT strategy and consulting.  The company is also a partner of choice for business intelligence, project management, the management and support of IT infrastructure – specifically storage and server consolidation – and the provision of resources.

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