Social media customer service is no longer optional, according to a new study just released by NM Incite, Nielsen, and McKinsey. According to the 2012 Social Care (=social media customer service) Survey, 47 percent of U.S. social media users expect companies to provide “social care.” In fact, according to the study, 30 percent of active social media users prefer social media customer service to telephone customer service. What was most surprising, perhaps, is that even customers aged 65 and over use social care.
Other important findings of the study:
- 71 percent of those who receive great social care say they are more likely to recommend a brand based on this experience
- 70 percent who receive satisfactory social care say they will use social care again
- Facebook and Twitter are the platforms preferred by respondents for social care
- Social Care Users prefer Facebook over the company blog; and they prefer the company blog over Twitter
This change in preference for social media customer service seems to have reached the tipping point very quickly. It was merely months ago that many social media services firms were telling their clients it was time to consider social care; today, social media customer service is expected.
The first implication of this preference for your business is that social care is no longer an option. If you plan to leverage social media to grow your business, you must have a social care program. However, issuing an immediate announcement that your company provides social care is not recommended.
The second implication of this shift is that every word of a customer service conversation conducted on social media is visible to the world. Your company probably cannot afford to learn as you go, making mistakes in the public eye. If you offer social care precipitously, the cost of a failure or a mistake might be the social reputation of your business.
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The third implication of the preference for social care, therefore, is that you must give high priority to the task of planning and building a program of social care. When getting it wrong can be so costly, every company (of any size) needs to develop a strategic plan for social care.
At a time when social care can make or break your business, planning for every possibility in the customer service interaction is critical. Here are the essentials of every plan:
- Who will be your social care team? Typically, these individuals will be level headed, not inclined to panic or over-react, knowledgeable of company policies, trained in customer service, and empowered to speak and act on behalf of the company.
- What are your social care policies? Every company needs clear, written policies about customer service:
- the conditions under which returns can be made by customers for full refund and within what time limits;
- how much time you are willing to spend helping the customer learn to use your product;
- how far you are willing to go to make a customer happy;
- the limits on your liability for customer failure or misuse of the product, etc.
- How will your social care team monitor social media for customer complaints or questions? In addition to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, you will need some type of monitoring software to find and report relevant conversations.
- What is the timeframe for a response to a question or complaint? Recent studies indicate that most social media users expect an “immediate” response. How quickly do you expect your social care team to respond to a question or complaint? Many firms benchmark their response time at one hour.
- Will this team monitor and respond to positive comments in social media? If they do, what is their message to the customer? What is the goal of the response?
- When should a social care conversation be taken offline? The reason for embracing social care is to provide transparency into how your company values and treats customers. Demonstrating exemplary customer care can be powerful. Yet personal information (phone number, mailing address, etc.) should not be exchanged in open conversations. What are your guidelines?
Today, social media customer service is expected. Before you authorize people to interact with customers in social media, it is critical to establish policies, procedures, and processes. Choose the people who will deliver social customer service carefully, and empower them within the limits your company determines. By also making them familiar with your key marketing messages and informing them of social media marketing campaigns, they can also support your marketing efforts, present a consistent voice to the public, and win brand advocates for your business.