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Social media plays a critical role in successfully delivering good customer service. Jo Causon, CEO at the UK's Institute of Customer Service, says “social media needs to be a central part of a coherent, sustained and long-term focus on customer service strategy, something that many organisations are yet to do.”

When building a "coherent, sustained and long-term" plan to using social media for customer service you'll need to consider which networks you will focus on. Do you focus on Twitter for customer service questions, or on Facebook, or both? It depends really, on where your customers are already talking about you, and where you are able to support your customers best. And if you're not aware of where your customers are already praising or complaining about your brand, then you'll need to deploy some social media listening techniques to understand that first.

It's also important to consider how you'll control each of your social media accounts that is responding to customer service enquiries. It's easy to forget that activity on social media cannot be controlled or managed in the same way as customer support phone calls or emails can be. For instance, you are responsible for any content posted on your Facebook page, whether it was one of your team or a customer that posted it!

Then you'll need to think about what and how you publish to each of your social media accounts for customer service with valuable information. I like to think about publishing content thats designed to inform, educate and entertain. But it depends on whether you choose to create separate accounts specifically for customer support, or whether you roll it into your existing accounts originally created for marketing communications.

You download a free copy of our Guide to Social Customer Service Strategy: How to Develop & Deliver a Strategic Roadmap for Social Customer Service to read more.

Understand your existing customer service & social media capabilities

Before you develop a future roadmap to using social media for customer service, you need to understand where you are now. For example, you should try to some of the following things:

  1. Current capabilities of the organisation to deliver customer service on social media?
  2. Type and speed of social media listening currently required?
  3. Current social media access or activity across different teams or departments?
  4. Current level of customer social media engagement?
  5. Which individuals or teams own your existing social media accounts?
  6. What's your track record in escalating customer complaints and dealing with them?
  7. Are there any Service Level Agreements set for customer service enquiries?
  8. Are you able to collaborate around social media to post content and reply to questions?
  9. How do you keep a record of customer service enquiries received via social media?
  10. How you record and act on areas for improvement?
  11. Do you have a Social Media Policy in place?
  12. Have you documented the social media operational risks?

By answering these questions get a good understanding of where you are today.

4 elements of using social media for customer service

When you start to look at your requirements for tomorrow, there are four core areas to consider when developing a roadmap.

Social Media Customer Care, Roadmap of Success

What's the best approach?

  1. What do our capabilities suggest would be the ideal model of delivering customer service on social media? One centralised account responding to all enquiries? Multiple accounts to answer questions from customers or end-users in each local area or geography?
  2. Are we recruiting the right people to be able to respond to service questions on social? Can we train them effectively and track their performance?
  3. Have we mapped out our customers journey from search to social?
  4. How has our platform & channel mix performed in the past and likely to perform in the future?

How will you listen for customer service enquiries on social media?

  1. How sharp does our social media listening/monitoring need to be, and over what time period? Do we want immediate visibility of support questions, or is it ok to be delayed?

  2. Can we listen to the right things in the right place at the right time?

How will you respond to enquiries?

  1. Are we responding effectively? Are we being accurate, honest and offering strong escalation options in times of distress?
  2. What times of day do we experience most and least demand? Are things likely to continue in this way?
  3. Are we coping with the volume? Responding in a timely manner?
  4. Are we tracking our interactions accurately? Consistently?
  5. What level of integration needs to exist with other departments? Other channels?
  6. What role does peer-to-peer play in our social media efforts?
  7. Do we have a robust crisis plan for social media? Has it been rehearsed or reviewed recently?

How will you monitor & evaluate social customer service activity?

  1. Have we identified the appropriate metrics to measure ourselves by? What is our current impact/gratitude index?
  2. Have we agreed SLAs across key elements of delivery?
  3. How are we getting customer feedback on our customer service efforts? Surveys? Monitoring? Are we recording thanks – prompted and unprompted?
  4. Are we learning and improving from what we experience day in, day out? Are we fixing things as we go or storing them up for later?
  5. What social media reporting protocols are in place?

Resourcing social media for excellent customer service

It's estimated that 8 times the amount of customer service traffic can be managed using social media. Which means its critical to have suitably skilled people who can respond to those customer enquiries.

There can be an assumption that somebody using social media for their own personal use ‘qualifies’ them to be able to engage with customers via the corporate accounts. But, thats not necessarily correct. Those delivering customer support on social media can enter dialogues with customers and may need awareness of 'Facebook English', empathy and understanding of humour and cultural diversity, combined with the influencing skills to ‘close’ enquiries.

So its important to assess how you will staff your customer service activity on social media. Just leaving it to the marketing team because they already "do social media" can be a risk. It might be necessary to train users in delivering customer support inline with any criteria defined in your social media policy document, like always responding to customer questions within 24 hours, for example.

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Download the guide - How to deliver exceptional customer service on social media in 2019

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