Epic Social Media Customer Service: It’s a Journey

By Lauren Kindzierski, VP, Product Marketing, HGS

This article was published in the SOCAP CRM Magazine.

It’s not a sprint or even a marathon—it’s a journey of creating memorable experiences. Here’s how to start.

Social media customer service has been around for longer than a decade, but what it takes to succeed has changed. Today, a new generation of digital natives—Generation Z— turns to social media for help and expects more than just good service. They expect a mind-blowing customer experience. While many brands have mastered the basics of responding to customers, now it is time they take service to the next level and create epic social customer care.

What is epic social customer care? It’s the creation of memorable customer experiences and lasting impressions that help build brand affinity and loyalty. The goal is that these positive experiences get shared, liked, and commented on by others—broadening brand awareness and building a positive reputation.

Identify Epic Experiences

There are five key components of epic experiences.

1. Speed. Speed is everything in social media. Traditionally, many brands experience high volumes and have limited personnel who end up spending a lot of time and effort sifting through posts, determining what’s actionable, and tagging the posts for reporting. This reduces response times and causes bad experiences.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can help determine what is actionable, removing all posts that are non-actionable, so agents do not waste time on posts that are spam, news articles, retweets, international, etc. An automated rules engine can be implemented to help tag posts and route them to the appropriate internal team—either public relations or social customer care.

When a consumer dials a 1-800 number, they expect someone to answer the phone within seconds. The same expectations exist within social media. The longer the complaints and unhappy customers are left unanswered on social media, the greater chance for the situation to get worse and go viral, potentially creating a public relations crisis for the brand.

2. Empathy. Listening and understanding can go a long way. Customers want brands to understand their thoughts, feelings, and issues, from their perspectives. In social media, this often requires a more nuanced response than a simple apology. When executed right, thoughtful and empathetic responses show others reading the post that the brand truly cares.

3. Fun. With social media, a customer service team’s responses should be a reflection of a brand personality. Anytime there is an opportunity to respond with humor, fun, or an emoji, these nuances can help create a memorable experience that brings a brand to life.

4. Surprise. Not everyone who mentions a brand on social media does so with the expectation that they will get an actual response from the company. Brands can often use this to their advantage, by reaching out in an authentic way to help solve their problem or simply strengthen a customer relationship.

5. Resolution. It almost goes without saying that customers are a brand’s number one asset, and not responding to them is not an option. When customers reach out on social media, it’s often their last attempt to seek a resolution for a bad experience. Epic social care means quickly resolving the customer’s issue within the social-media channel, and not sending them to a form or 1-800 number.

If a customer has a concern or question, a resolution is essential. Sometimes that resolution can happen with a chatbot, for easy frequently asked questions. Other times, it will need the human touch. For example, there may be instances where it is appropriate to redirect the conversation to a private message to collect personal information to solve the customer’s problem.

The hope is that the customer will be inclined to delete the original negative posts or update the feed with a post about how they are happy with the positive outcome.

Strategies to Create Epic Experiences
When building a social customer care solution, look at how AI, automation, chatbots, analytics, and the human touch can help deliver the best service efficiently. These tools are powerful and can address many of the common business problems faced when engaging on social media. If brands want to create epic experiences, these strategies can deliver important benefits:

Amplification (human touch): The biggest benefit of social media, compared with other customer service channels, is that with social, brands have the opportunity to amplify positive customer experiences. Especially when engaging with an influencer or celebrity with a huge following, going the extra mile for these individuals can catapult a brand into epic stardom. This is something only the human touch can effectively do!

Protection (AI, automation, human touch): The reality is not every post will be a fun or positive one. Very serious issues can surface that could be brand damaging or even life threatening, such as bomb threats, in-store violence, harassment, and political issues. Social customer care representatives should identify these posts and share them with personnel on the company’s communications team or a PR agency that is trained to handle these situations. Better yet, leverage AI and automation to automatically capture and route these posts to the right staff.

Insights (analytics): Text analytics is critical to gaining a deep understanding of what customers are saying about the brand in social media. The brand can uncover trends such as product or service complaints, praise, suggestions, questions, and requests. These insights can help the entire enterprise make strategic business decisions in real time.

Hiring the right talent for a social customer care program is critical. The ideal people for social customer service jobs are those who are naturally empathetic, who want to talk to customers and solve their problems and can remain calm when an angry customer is yelling at them. In addition to empathy and problem solving, the skill set needed to implement epic social care includes strong creativity, critical thinking skills, fantastic typing, spelling and grammar skills, and great communication skills. Candidates’ potential fit for social customer service jobs can be assessed by asking them to identify the best response, identify different types of profiles, and decode what customers are saying when using their social slang.

Social customer care training programs are particularly important due to the public nature of conducting customer service on social media for all to read, including news and media outlets. Curriculum should include training on how to anticipate and circumvent a possible brand crisis; craft creative and authentic responses that use the brand voice; engage with influencers; follow the rules of engagement; escalate appropriately; use the social engagement platform; and resolve the top contact drivers. In addition, social media care advocates should be trained on when and how to use emojis in responses. Emojis make digital conversations more emotional and memorable. They are a great way to add lightheartedness or a personal touch and show humor and happiness.

Measuring Social Customer Care

To measure epic social customer care, a brand must focus on analyzing experiences that help to build brand reputation—these are responses that get shared, liked, and receive positive comments. To achieve these experiences, brands must focus on resolving issues, amplifying the positive and protecting the brand. Here is breakdown of what to measure:

Resolving Issues:  Both resolution and response times are essential ingredients to creating epic experiences. For this reason, they need to be monitored daily, along with how effectively the AI model is working to reduce non-actionable posts. It is also important to identify what percentages of posts get tagged automatically and work to tweak the model. Implementing a CSAT survey after each engagement can be an effective way to measure whether or not customers are getting their issues resolved in channel the first time.

Creating Memorable Moments:  Any time the brand engages with an influencer, it is important to measure potential impressions received, shares, retweets, likes, and comments. In addition, tracking sentiment and share of voice compared with competitors can provide a brand perspective on their marketplace position.

Protecting the brand:  It is important to track negative or threatening posts that have the potential to lead to a brand crisis. Note the specific situation, the outcome, and whether the post gained traction. If it did, how much? Was the brand successful at defusing the situation? How did brand sentiment shift? How long did it take the team to identify and spot the issue? How long was the time to resolution?

Decoding the Voice of the Customer: In today’s disruptive business economy, it is critical to—on a daily basis—decode the voice of the customer on social media, and then share those insights with the rest of the enterprise. The customer intelligence captured will help the enterprise gain new ideas, uncover quality or warranty issues, spot trends, and, most importantly, align the brand’s strategy to what customers desire. To do this effectively, it requires two tools:

Dashboards: This means a real-time voice of the customer dashboard that tracks customer sentiment as it relates to products, services, and the overall customer experience. These dashboards should provide the ability to slice and dice the data by category or geography to dig deep into the insights.

Analytics: Text analytics can decode exactly what’s being said and the sentiment toward each topic. Tracking should include social media conversations taking place on the brand’s social assets, as well as external content such as blogs, forums, product rating and reviews, idea portals, and customer online community discussions.

The last point to keep in mind is that the path to epic experiences is not a sprint or even a marathon—it’s a journey. So, stay the course and keep focused on the goal at hand, which is creating memorable experiences.


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