Can the canned response!
How often have you heard phrases such as, “That call centre agent sounds like a robot!”, “The person who invented IVR should be shot!”, “I just got a pro forma email from a company that didn’t address a single issue I raised!”, “Why does the speech recognition system not understand a word I’m saying?” The common theme here is that customers don’t enjoy being served by machines when they have specifically contacted a company because they want a human response. Whether on the phone or via written channels, customers universally dislike scripts and template responses which make them feel undervalued. Social media presents an opportunity to be human, to show empathy, to listen and engage authentically, in a personalised way.
Personalise…but don’t over personalise
Personalisation of the service experience should start with the agent giving their name. However it should not progress to sharing personal stories and problems. The interaction should be all about the customer.
A successful social media operation will have all the tools and procedures in place to allow agents to respond within minutes rather than hours. There is no reason why a call or web chat should be answered within a minute and a complaint on social media relegated to follow-up the next day. You could argue that, if anything, enquiries in the public domain deserve a higher priority than those in the private domain.
Know when to channel hop
Customer satisfaction is highest when a query is resolved at the first point of contact. This is doubly important in the social media channel, because a majority of social media enquiries occur because the customer didn’t get resolution elsewhere. Therefore if a simple issue can be openly resolved on Facebook, for example, this is preferable, even if means the world is watching. In fact, if done well, it can earn the company brownie points for honesty and empathy, creating a positive word of mouth effect.
However in some cases, it’s important to continue the conversation via email or phone, particularly where there are privacy concerns. Agents need to be trained in the boundaries of what information is okay to request on social media – after all, the most un-private of channels – and what must be managed off-line.
An enquiry that starts on social and progresses to email for confidentiality reasons, may well end on a positive note with a customer going back to social to thank the agent for resolving her issue. This is actually the perfect outcome for the company as well as the customer, as the thank you Tweet or post at the end of the customer journey spreads positive brand vibes to hundreds, thousands or even more people.
Don’t do it in isolation
A mistake is to think a social media team can function in isolation, without access to a record of customers’ activity on other channels. Australian customers use on average three channels to resolve a single query, sohaving no visibility of contacts leading up to the social media query handicaps the agent from the start, and inhibits the golden opportunity of a personalised customer experience.
Say hello to your new company spokesperson
Social media agents are the face of your company each time they engage with a customer. They are your company spokesperson en masse. But in contrast to the stereotype of an official company spokesman, social media agents are – or should be! – warm and sociable. Just like an official spokesperson, they should carry some authority – authority to do what it takes to please and appease disgruntled customers, and to design their own written responses. They should be empowered to be proactive, to surprise customers in creative ways. They should be encouraged to pre-emptively contact customers who are having issues in an online forum, before the complaint even reaches Facebook.
The bottom line is that social media customer service requires a whole new approach in the way organisations recruit, train, monitor and manage customer service within their contact centre. And the transformation is at every level, from technology and operations to, most importantly, culture.