Customer service departments have long played an integral role in the delivery of quality customer experience for brands, service providers and B2B organizations. Traditionally, they provide an important one-to-one communication channel to troubleshoot problems, answer questions and resolve complaints. They’ve grown in stature and funding and had the ear of the C-Suite often, much to the chagrin of their sales and marketing counterparts. With the advent of social media, however, that one-to-one focus exploded into a one-to-many communication channel that changed their role forever. A new publication, Delivering Effective Social Customer Service by Carolyn Blunt and Martin Hill-Wilson offers a look back to what are traditional best practices and, more importantly, provides a strategic framework for how to apply the best of the best practices and plan for the future where all customer service issues remain one-to-one, but also open to any and all in the metaverse.
We are all aware of the examples of social media ‘complaints’ that escalated into full blown crises and costly brand damaging episodes. United Airlines, Comcast, Dell, UPS and Time Warner Cable can all attest to the very real expense of mishandled customer service issues in the social era. And, as my colleague Cheryl Treleaven pointed out in her recent blog, Millennials’ ‘go to social first’ instincts will certainly make effectively delivering customer care via social even more vital. In the book, the authors provide a simple diagnostic to help organizations not only develop a social customer service strategy but also serves as a guide to what types of internal changes will be required. To be sure, no one should underestimate how important working across an organization’s many departments will be to success. Don’t expect a Center of Excellence playbook to be a quick fix.
Learning from Others’ Experiences
Understanding both the upside and potential pitfalls is critical but don’t let the latter intimidate you. Done correctly, a finely tuned social customer process can contribute substantially to the overall customer experience and bring value that brands can measure. The book showcase learnings from some of the top social customer service performers—British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Microsoft, SAP and Zappos.
The old adage of ‘keep your customer satisfied’ is no less true today. Being able to harness support through active ‘voice of the customer’ (VOC) programs is one of the greatest pay backs from customer service initiatives. Studies show that peer reviews are more influential to consumer buying decisions than advertising or marketing initiatives. As an added bonus, satisfied customers can be further engaged in the role of community advocates who will gladly offer their opinions and insights as an adjunct to your organization’s internal team. Significant cost savings have been reported by a number of brands who have tapped customer advocates as key contributors in online support communities. Microsoft is a good example.
Social customer service done well offers untold benefits such as:
- Increased revenue
- Greater customer lifetime value
- Substantial voice of the customer
For a complete list of online community best practices including customer support, check out ComBlu’s study.
The focus of Kevin’s 40+ year career has been on strategic counsel, alliance and partnership formation and business development.