Customer service can no longer be confined to telephone and e-mail. As 'digital natives' begin to constitute a greater proportion of the consumer market, customers expect their service needs to be met at the tap of a touchscreen. For this reason, more and more customers are expecting companies to have a social media presence that stretches beyond marketing their brand and into providing fast, meaningful service at a moment’s notice.
Social media use is growing at a staggering rate worldwide.
It’s no secret that social media is among the most ubiquitous indicators that we live in an increasingly virtual world. The number of social media users increased by 176 million in 2015 alone, and internet users hold an average of 5.54 social media accounts.
And while companies may think that using social media to market their brand is enough to 'keep up with the Joneses,' the real competitive advantage lies in a company’s ability to use social media effectively to provide quick, quality customer service.
Customer service response and waiting time on social media should be a priority of staffing, training, and goal-setting for call centers.
Consumers who have been raised in a touch-screen, real-time, instant-gratification virtual world have high expectations for customer service response and waiting time on social media. For example, 78 percent of people who lodge a complaint to a brand via Twitter expect a reply, and 77% of Twitter users feel more positive about a company when their Tweet has been replied to within an hour.
To place that expectation in a broader context, a survey conducted by Edison Research determined that 42% of customers who contact a company via social media for service and support expect a response within an hour, and 34% expect a response within 30 minutes! Clearly, a quick response time is key to keeping the customer happy.
Many companies are not meeting consumer expectations for customer service response and waiting time on social media.
Although many companies are beginning to embrace social media as a powerful customer service tool, consumer expectations for customer service response and waiting time on social media has yet to be met.
According to a retail study conducted by brandwatch, a meager 11.2% of companies respond to questions posed by customers via social media within an hour
In light of this gap, customer service centers who are staffed, trained, and ready to meet this expectation have the potential to significantly enhance companies’ reputations for outstanding customer care, especially considering that customers who use social media to access customer service are three times more likely to share their positive experience with others, according to a study conducted by American Express.
Prioritizing customer needs to manage volume and maintain timeliness.
Responding within an hour of a customer’s complaint, mention, or query for customer service is a goal that many companies are striving for, but few are reaching as of yet. If your call center is not yet equipped to manage the ever-swelling surge of social media customer service requests, how can agents best prioritize these requests?
Consider organizing requests into a tiered system which places issues that are most likely to lead to account terminations or product returns at the top of your agents’ list for a timely response. This could include account lockouts, product defects, shipping delays, or service outages.
Also included in this high priority tier is any issue with the potential to significantly impact a company’s PR (remember that social media platforms are a tinderbox for word-of-mouth wildfire). As a secondary priority, agents should engage proactively with customers, for example, by responding thankfully to positive feedback or checking in again with customers who have experienced product or service issues in the recent past.
What about customer privacy?
Now that your call center agents and managers understand the importance of quick, visible responses to customer service requests via social media, what about customer privacy? How can a response be made directly to the customer for all the world to see when an agent’s professional discretion detects that privacy is a concern?
Remember, the main advantages of social media customer care are 1) visibility and 2) speedy response time, and both of these can still be achieved even if the 'meat' of the issue needs to move over to a more private communication channel, such as phone or email.
Agents can fire a quick reply to the issue, expressing empathy to the customer and eagerness to resolve the issue, then suggest the secondary channel to get down to the nitty-gritty business of their request.
This way other customers can see how quickly the company responds, but privacy is still protected. If privacy doesn’t seem to be a concern, resolving the problem quickly and visibly by remaining on the social platform has the benefit of convenience for the customer as well as the potential for helping other customers who have a similar problem now or in the future. This could result in a reduction in request volume over time as customers are able to see each other’s problems and solutions without contacting the company for themselves.
Next steps for call centers
Customer service centers should focus their efforts on response and waiting time on social media with equal, if not higher, emphasis as traditional channels. Companies experiencing a high volume of social media-based requests might consider investing in a ticketing system designed to detect and respond to such requests in a manner that is timely, well-prioritized, and socially visible.