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Companies Climb Multiple Hurdles to Offer True Social Customer Service

January 13, 2014

These days, it’s not enough to simply wait for your customers’ calls and answer them, transaction by transaction. Conventional wisdom says that customers are expecting more preemptive customer care: an apology from a cable services provider for interrupted service, for example, accompanied by some sort of perk as an apology. If you’re a bank and you’re lowering an interest rate on a financial services product, make an outbound outreach to customers who own that product and suggest other options for them. Reach out to customers complaining via social media to solve their problems – visibly and publicly – before they pick up the phone.


It’s all part of the customer service mantra of serving customers “where they live,” and increasingly this means embracing social media. While many of the largest brands with the biggest stakes are already there – think banks and other financial services providers – too many companies aren’t doing it, even on the highly visible and widely used platforms of Facebook and Twitter. A survey conducted by Maritz Research found that approximately 70 percent of customer service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered.

What this means, however, is that 30 percent of customer complaints are being answered, and it’s likely that these answers are all coming from a small handful of forward-thinking companies that understand the damage that customers airing grievances on Twitter and Facebook can cause. There are many reasons why companies aren’t doing it. They may not understand the implications. They may not have the technical ability to monitor and respond to the posts. They may not have staff savvy enough to handle social media. Or they may simply not care.

Whatever the case, it’s an enormous mistake, particularly among younger customers. One study found that 59 percent of consumers aged 25- to 34-year-old report that they regularly share bad experiences on social media. Another large mistake companies make is to put social media monitoring and customer support in the wrong place: with marketing or sales, for example. Social media needs to be treated as just another contact channel, and as a result, it belongs in the contact center, integrated with other channels such as phone, Web chat and e-mail.

Panelists at a recent a 2013 Social Media Leadership Awards identified some of the biggest challenges they have had with implementing social customer service programs. Companies found that monitoring social media was overwhelming, just from the sheer volume of posts. Organizations that do it successfully have reported that they require literally dozens of people to do it. Financial services organizations have run up against a wall when using direct messaging through social media, finding that transmitting account numbers or other information via social media is prohibited by banking regulations.

At the heart of the problem is that most organizations simply don’t have robust enough technology platforms to integrate social media into the customer experience. While few companies want to scrap what they’ve got and start all over again, the stakes are simply too high to continue to ignore the issue. 




Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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