As social media becomes more ingrained in organizations’ strategies for communicating with their customers, the natural extension is that is has become a new platform through which to provide customer service.
Traditionally, there have been two main channels for receiving remote (not in person) customer service: telephone and email. Today, it has involved to include social media. This introduction is pushing customer service into the spotlight and forcing companies to take a serious look at the level of service they are providing. The question is, will
organizations step up and use it as an opportunity to differentiate themselves or shy
away from the challenge? Below I have outlined some of the key benefits and obstacles of customer service via social media that I think organizations need to consider.
- Provides customers with options. Gone are the days when you have to be available to call them between 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. Now, you can write a Facebook message at any time or Tweet at them from anywhere. By opening up more channels for customers to get help in, it is allowing them to have more flexibility and find a time and channel that works for their schedule, a big win for the customer.
- Helps companies handle volume. Think of all the time spent by telephone Reps answering simple questions from customers. If these questions were asked over social media, the social media responder can answer these questions in much less time – for both the Rep and customer – allowing them to serve a higher volume of customers throughout the day.
- Cost Savings. It is extremely expensive to run a call centre compared to a social media team so if more customers turn online, this could be a significant cost savings for the organization. Furthermore, if you answer a common question online for all customers to see, it may answer their questions as well and eliminate their need to contact you. Another win-win.
- Customer complaints and comments are now public. Gone are the days when a company can deal with a situation quietly and as a one-off resolution. Customers are taking to Twitter, Facebook and other networks to express their frustrations with a brand and when they do, it immediately works as negative press against the brand as it is posted for everyone to see it.
- Lost value of a personal conversation. Nothing beats a solid live conversation with a phone Rep, the only way you can truly make the experience personal. The organization I work with has an award winning call centre and I can tell you, no one loves our product the way our Reps do, and the value that comes out of a good conversation with one of them is unmatched. If fewer customers are calling in to speak to a live person, this decreases the opportunities to have those conversations and creating lasting impressions and brand affinity with our customers.
- Customer expectations on wait times are high. Astute Solutions suggests that the benchmark for wait times for responses on social media is 1 hour. That is not a lot of time. Customers won’t care if your social media team is at lunch, or on vacation. If organizations take too long to respond, it could lead to negative experience for the customer and do more damage than the flexibility of customer service via social media can positively create.
Customer expectations are higher than ever and the points above are by no means exhaustive. There is a saying in the customer experience world: a customers’ expectation of you is based on their last great customer service experience. That means that we are no longer competing within ourselves or within our industry. If a customer received amazing treatment from an airline representative, they will then hold their bank teller to the same expectations the next time they see them. With customer service expanding to a new platform, especially one that can be compared easily across brands (for example RBC and Air Canada both have Facebook pages, why should you expect different service from them on it?), companies are being held to new levels of expectations.
Personally, I think social media is offering up new opportunities for organizations to provide top class customer service, but I am not sure organizations have embraced it and prepared themselves with plans tackle the challenges. Organizations need to see these higher expectations as a challenge to step up to and an opportunity to connect and impress their customers in new ways.
Do you think organizations are ready to take on social media as a new platform for customer service? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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