We explore why Social Customer Service is such a hot topic for the contact centre, relive the disastrous consequences when you ignore its impact and look at how others have used it to benefit from free advertising, manage risk and recover lost service standards.
In the spotlight
The Internet and social networks means that all aspects of a company’s interaction with the consumer are under the spot light. Where once we could hide the damage caused by poor customer interactions by the limited reach of customers, today examples of poor customer service are frequently posted on to the Internet and seen by not only regular customers but also potential customers in new markets.
This is a challenge for most organisations because whilst they may be portrayed as a single entity or brand, in reality they are comprised of individuals and departments who often only have a partial view of their company’s operations and may have conflicting service standards. Representing the company falls to the frontline staff. Whether they sell physical goods, offer a service or both, your customer service agents are indispensable assets to the company. Taking an order, giving information or helping resolve complicate issues, the impact of their work has never been more important than today. They carry the responsibility for representing the brand and company. The ability of the Internet to transmit news quickly means that any example of bad customer service will spread to new customers.
Harnessing the power of Social Media to resolve customer issues
Many of us can remember the classic posting on the Internet a few years back by Dave Carol, the Canadian musician, regarding his poor experience with United Airlines. The short film he made and posted on Tube became a viral hit overnight, bringing down the share price of the company (link here).
More recently, Tesla, an American electric sports car maker, suffered a similar hit in their stock price following an incident where one of their vehicles caught fire. They handled things rather differently. In direct response to the fire the owner of Tesla wrote an email to the victim of the car fire apologising and explaining the cause. The response from the owner was one of gratitude and a continual love of their Tesla Car (link here). Making use of the positive response from the victim, Tesla published the email correspondence on to their website and onto their social media accounts (twitter, facebook, linkedin). This resulted in a much more sympathetic eye to Tesla’s position. (If you look at the facebook page or comment page of the news article you will come across a large portion of commenters defending the Tesla brand). This resulted in a slight recovery on Tesla stock.
This example in service recovery demonstrates that Tesla was mindful of and harnessed the power of social media in finding a solution to the problem. Publishing good customer service an effective damage limitation strategy preventing further public outcry. It helped maintain stock equity and project a more positive brand image for Tesla.
Observations on the age of continual proactive communication
Social networks offer a continual proactive means of communication with customers. Its biggest advantage over communication methods such as email and letter is in its ability to allow customer service agents to continually engage with customers as well as update the same post without creating a new one.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes in consumer behaviour, driven by new technology, is with the advent of social network integrated smart phone users are checking social media more and more often; an IDC report suggested that smart phone users check Facebook on average 14 times a day (for more click here). Although to the non-user this may seem somewhat compulsive customer behaviour, the ability to be continually updated makes it an ideal tool to pro-actively inform users of service disruption whilst giving up to date news on the situation. An example is Blizzard the makers of popular MMORPG World of Warcraft. They inform users via both social network and through the use of a website of potential downtime in their service.
A commercial benefit in the use of social media is that contact centre agents are receiving unexpected help from the customer. Due to the interactive nature of social network it is commonplace to find users informing other users of why a service is down. For contact centre operations this can offer reductions in call traffic at key times, allowing front line staff to focus on resolving more complex or personalised problems without having to spend time responding to repetitive or more simple tasks.
Social networks are now firmly established as a means to market products and services. The promise of winning goods and services for sharing feedback on customer service experiences, offers the chance of free social network advertising. An interesting route to market was recently employed by Steam the Internet biggest e-retailers for games. In September 2013 Valve, the owners of Steam, announced the release of three ground breaking updates revolving around Steam giving only three images as a clue to the update. This became a vast topic of debate on Reddit and throughout other social networks, the discussion and guess work on the Steam product provided an interactive way for Steam to advertise their product. The same method has been used by Mercedes in their ‘Escape from the Map’ adverts and has also been used to great effect at ComicCon in the run up to the ‘Dark Knight’. The interactive element of such adverts ensures the message remains lodged in the imagination of the customer and a driver of their behaviour. However such adverts would not work without the ability of social networks to form communities and act as a conduit for news.
Senior management are now more visible and accountable.
But these benefits do not mean companies can be complacent. An unhappy customer who is unable to contact customer service departments easily (and many organisations do not make it obvious to see how to make contact) can now find the names of customer service and operations directors simply on social media networks and often make contact with them directly within a matter of minutes.
This is a real game changer, sweeping aside company procedures and escalation levels for resolving issues. Senior staff now find themselves increasingly visible and accountable for their organisation’s service standards and the customer experience. How these incidents are managed is of crucial importance.
Is your team ready for the challenge?
We have talked about the importance and use of social networks. The contact centre has a vital role to play, with agents acting as community moderators, directing discussions, dispelling hear-say as well as ‘business as usual’. To protect the brand and maintain customer loyalty it is vital that that contact centre provides consistent examples of excellent customer service and that these are publicised on social networks.
With the blossoming of social customer service and the ongoing advance of technology, the work of contact centre agents has become even more challenging. Online accessibility of information and increasing customer expectations means greater skill is required to manage customer perceptions. The quality of contact centre communication is under increased scrutiny. Is your team ready to meet the challenges? At dancing lion we can help ensure you offer a joined up service, and that your people fulfil and exceed customer expectations.