What Is Social Customer Service Anyway?

This is a guest post by Josh March, CEO of Conversocial.

Social media may seem like such a fully-ingrained part of our lives, but in reality we’re only hitting adolescence. Conversocial has worked with businesses since their first steps into social media engagement. At the time, this seemed revolutionary to most marketing departments – that customers would speak back, and that companies needed to do something about it. Over the past few years, we’ve come leaps and bounds and today social customer service is a standard concept, program and even team in many businesses.

But we’re still left with questions about what this really is. How will the contact center have to change, with customer support and engagement open to the public? Next week, I’ll be talking about “The Social Engagement Hub” alongside speakers from Edelman Digital, Ogilvy, GoDaddy and Nokia, and what this looks like for the future.

At Conversocial, we’ve worked with marketing, customer service, customer experience, customer insight, product, and sales teams, because social customer service calls for new rules of play for customer relationships. Social media presents opportunities for every part of your organisation – from customer retention in offering service to dissatisfied customers, to new sales from customers grumbling about your competitors. And the wealth of insight available in volunteered social data is wasted if your insight and product teams can’t action it to make better business decisions.

Developing great social customer service is the only way for companies to tap into this. We recently conducted research on the Twitter mentions of some of America’s biggestretailers. In a day in the life of Twitter, it’s astounding what’s out there for the taking. Major opportunities raised by customers constituted over 1/3 of all mentions, and include customer experience, customer dissatisfaction product availability enquiries, sales and pricing questions and service and facilities feedback. We’ll be sharing more of this data on the 19th.

In my vision for the contact center of the future, social relationships with customers sit at the heart of your organisation. Companies will have to consider some serious structural reorganisation of not only how they manage communication with their customers, but also how they perceive it. Customer service will no longer be relegated as an inconvenient cost center, but as the front line of customer engagement.

Join us next Tuesday to discuss market trends, the experiences of leaders in this space and pick the brains of our panel of experts as to how you can start delivering real social customer service in your company. We’ll be opening up discussion that’s relevant for every customer-focused role in your company, so if you’re looking for answers to ‘what is social customer service anyway?’ we should be able to help.

Social Media [Should] Take Flight in Customer Service

I have come to the understanding that some brands are hesitant about social media use for one of two reasons:

1. Fear. They are afraid it will somehow reflect poorly on their brand.

2. Priority. They claim they do not have the capital to contribute to a social media effort.

Today, few brands can afford to neglect this space, even if they are placing minimal effort into social media. Consumers will discuss whether a brand has occupied the social media landscape. It is important to seize this opportunity, before falling too far behind.

One industry that I think has neglected to address the social media opportunities as much they could is the airline industry. With American Airlines declaring bankruptcy, and others not far behind, social media is a key opportunity to create brand differentiation. The airline industry is a customer service industry, and as airlines stray from that business platform, they stray from the innate components that keep them afloat. This past week, I witnessed a missed-opportunity first hand.

My Flight Experience:
I recently traveled on a flight with Continental/United Airlines (recently partnered) where I was forced to de-board two separate planes because of malfunctioning equipment (thankfully, the third plane was in working order). During this twelve hour debacle, I decided to experiment with the @continental (which is no longer maintained) and @united accounts to see what type of response I would get. I had the time on my hands, so why not put social media efforts to the test? After sending numerous tweets to both accounts from my personal account (@mikeeev), I heard nothing. Not one response and still none to date.

Then, having recently listened to former Jet Blue CEO David Neeleman speak about customer service, I decided to tweet @JetBlue. I read on their account that they did not respond to any formal complaints, but I figured I would tweet at them to see if I received a response. It was a Tuesday evening and I told them I was stranded at the airport with two faulty planes and was very annoyed with my current airline.

Within minutes I received two tweets, the first asking what they could help with and the second providing me with a phone number to the company. In those tweets, a combined less than 280 characters, I was won over.

The Conclusion:
If United had responded to my tweet, I would have felt more valued as a customer. End of story. And in order to survive a cut-throat industry like the airline industry, brands cannot afford to lose customer value. Jet Blue re-affirmed that a competitor can be there for me. So all else the same, why would I choose a non-responsive brand over one that responds to me? I wouldn’t.

Social Media is now not only a bonus space for big brands, but a requirement. Consumers are beginning to expect direct outreach via social platforms, and those who fail to see this might have more than two faulty planes to deal with.

Michael Varallo is a digital marketer with expertise in social media, mobile, branding, and email marketing. He is also a research fellow at Fordham University’s Center for Positive Marketing. Reach him on twitter @mikeeev or find his contact information on MichaelVarallo.com. More can be read on positive marketing and brand influence at The Center for Positive Marketing at Fordham University.