Posted by Lauren Kindzierski , VP of Solutions and Capabilities, and Sachin Karweer, HGS Interactive Business Head. A new year brings new opportunities to reassess and rethink your social media strategy. Last year, HGS launched DigiSOCIAL, designed for businesses seeking solutions to provide social media communication with customers via live agent assisted messaging and self-service forums. As part two of our social media roundtable, we share insights from our social media experts, HGS team members Lauren Kindzierski , VP of Solutions and Capabilities, and Sachin Karweer, HGS Interactive Business Head. Q: How are businesses transitioning from using social media as a marketing tool to using it as a customer service channel? Lauren: When it comes to social media, organizational departments are finally realizing that they can’t operate in silos anymore. Social media is an effective communication channel for every department—such as marketing, public relations, sales, and customer service. One effective cost-saving strategy that works well is when brands outsource the monitoring piece to a third-party contact center, or business process outsourcer (BPO). The BPO acts as a social command center hub. Team members read each social mention and determine whether it’s actionable or non-actionable. If it’s actionable, then they will route to the correct party internally to engage. This ensures that all posts get read and followed up on. Then, the expensive marketing, PR, and sales resources can focus more on strategy within their respective areas instead of doing the tedious, tactical monitoring of posts. Sachin: Brands traditionally used social media for marketing for customer sourcing and acquisition; however, today’s customers have started using social media for raising their queries, complaints, feedback, and opinions. This has led brands to look at customer engagement and customer service through social media, with equal importance. For example, Twitter is emerging as a great customer service platform due to its ease of use and ease of sharing. We see more and more of our client brands increasingly using Twitter for effective customer service. Q: How can social media as a customer service channel integrate with other channels to create a full omni-channel solution? Lauren: With the proliferation of communication channels, customer service professionals are finding the importance of creating unified customer experience. Customers need to have the ability to start an interaction in one channel, be able to pause it, and then pick it up again from a different channel and even a different device. Figuring out how to integrate social media along with the other channels is important and there are two main steps to focus on. Step one is finding a social monitoring tool that integrates into your company’s CRM system. This enables customer service reps to create and log cases as they arise in social media. Usually for bad experiences, reps will need to collect the customer’s personal information and having a social monitoring tool that is already integrated eliminates copy/paste errors, creates efficiency, and reduces average handle time. Second, find a knowledge base that integrates into all of your channels and helps customers and reps find the right answer fast. Today, it’s not enough to have “just a knowledge base.” The best, most insightful business intelligence is developed from a contextual knowledge base that can be used by both agents and customers to predict the right answer based on that particular customer’s data, situation, location, and needs. The HGS Digital Natural Assist platform leverages company knowledge and bridges channels of interaction with an emphasis on empowering self-service and supporting social media care. With this innovation, our clients have discovered firsthand that the end result is faster responses, increased issue resolution, and reduced customer effort. Q: How should businesses manage negative comments on social media? Lauren: Negative comments are not something that should be feared, but rather embraced. When potential customers are reading reviews to help make their purchase decision, they look for the negative comments. As long as brands respond back to those customers who had bad experiences, it will show other potential customers that the organization cares about its customers and is addressing the issues. That will put other potential customers at ease at bit. Remember, if you don’t respond back to your angry customers, your competitors will. This “social conquesting” happens when competitors jump into conversations where the customer was angry, and the brand never responded. This is an attempt to increase market share, and, frankly, it is working. Time and time again, I will come across posts where the competitor responded, and gained a new customer. At the end of the day, there is more pressure on customer service teams to act more like a profit center and less like a cost center. Social conquesting is one strategy to help get there. As to the best strategy for handling negative posts, I advise only taking a post offline if you need to collect personal information from the customer to address their issue. If you view the post as a potential lawsuit, do not engage! Instead, escalate to legal and seek their feedback first.