Would you ever get a retail or office space, hang a sign outside with your business's name on it… but then just leave it standing there, unstaffed for long periods of time? And the front door unlocked, no less? Of course not! That would be a total waste, not to mention the frustration it would cause the customers that intend to do business with you, or that look for your help, yet they never have an opportunity to even talk with you.
But alas, this happens more often than you would think, and definitely more often than it should. As I sent a Facebook message to a major airline last week asking a question that I was unable to find the answer to in their FAQs or on the website, I waited…and waited… and waited... While waiting, the visual of an unattended storefront came to mind. Around the world, every day, organizations are leaving their social media “storefronts” open, yet unattended.
With the widespread global adoption of digital channels including social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and many others and the proliferation of mobile devices (smartphones, IPads, tablets, laptops, and others) consumers started spending more and more time online, on their channels of choice - initially as a way to stay in touch with friends and family.
But as social channels started rapidly evolving from being a familiar go-to for personal connections to becoming a trusted, robust means of engaging with the companies we do business with, many organizations initially made a mad dash to launch and market their social presence. In many, if not most, cases, initial efforts around a social presence were owned by the Marketing team, and rightly so. In the beginning, most companies’ social media presence was focused on social media marketing (the use of social media platforms to connect with an audience to build your brand, increase sales, and drive website traffic). And as a new “branch” of marketing, it was mostly in the purview of the Marketing team.
Yet as consumers started to use companies‘ social media presence to ask questions, request service, or (re-)schedule appointments – like other interactions channels: voice calls, emails or chat interactions – the playing field changed: providing social customer service became key. Consumers redefined what used to be a mainly marketing-oriented channel into an interaction channel, which traditionally is the purview of Customer Service and interactions are handled in what used to be called the Call Center (today more appropriately referred to as the “Contact Center” to account for the fact that the number of voice calls handled in the average “Call Center” is shrinking, yet the number of digital channel interactions is growing).
Unlike for other, traditional contact center interaction channels – there is no generally agreed upon Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Social Channels (however, there are a lot of suggestions surrounding what SLAs might be, plus many contact centers are actively researching and discussing what is right and makes sense). The general opinion is that if your brand prides itself on providing great customer service, you will want to target an SLA towards the lower end of the range. Here are some common SLA choices by channel (source: Call Centre Helper):
With the change from “a fun way to interact with friends and family” to “a convenient way to interact with a company” came customer expectations that needed to be addressed. Consumers started having expectations that their questions on social would be answered quickly, often wondering how long would it take the company to get back to them when they reached out using their social media channel? As mentioned, the final verdict is still out, but in general, faster is better (as long as the interaction is still personalized, and the agent is well prepared to handle whatever the problem is). With those customer expectations, you will need to establish “Service Levels” in your contact center for social media responses. That means that without the right resources, processes, and systems, the ability to ensure customers have a better experience than I recently had (assuming my airline monitoring social media was more than an empty promise). Social media can (and in many cases will) turn into a challenge that companies have to address. If they do not, chances are it may do more harm than good. BTW: I am STILL waiting for a reply to my question…
The airline I had tried to get a hold of hung a sign on their website saying “Hello there! Are you on Facebook or Twitter! So are we! Interact with us.” They made it easy for me to direct a message with my question. But then when I had engaged on social, they just left me standing there in the lobby, looking around, wondering where everyone was. That’s the point at a hotel counter or doctor’s office when I would search for the little bell to ring or stand on my tiptoes and see if I could peek around the corner into the backroom to see if someone was taking a nap, hoping that there might be someone that can help. But alas, in the digital world, the experience is even worse. There is no way I can even SEE whether there is someone there or not… I’m just left in limbo. Do I reach out again? Are they going to respond - eventually?
Some organizations still see social media as mostly or mainly a marketing initiative, a way to communicate out – on their terms – rather than enabling consumers to use social media for interacting with the business. This approach reminds me of that 90s teenager expression, “Talk to the hand cuz the face ain’t listening.”
Using Social channels for Marketing only tactics can be a valid approach as long as what is happening (or rather, what will NOT be happening, which is responding to the customer interaction) is made abundantly clear to customers – unless your customers are not interested at all in using social media channels. And that is rare indeed today – Salesforce research shows that all age groups including almost half of baby boomers expect companies to expand customer engagement methods to include more digital channels:
One option to do that might be to remove the ability to comment or send direct messages. However, you need to know that when you leave your storefront unattended for too long, your competitor from virtually down the street is going to notice. Next time a customer walks in, they might walk in right behind them and say “Hey, nobody is ever here. Weird right? Sorry, there’s no one around to help you here - but we can take care of you a few doors down the street!” Happens on social media quite frequently.
Sometimes organizations aren’t monitoring or paying attention to their social media - but their competitors are and they are reaping the rewards! Not only have you lost a customer, but you spent your marketing dollars to bolster your competitor’s customer base. Also, it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that when asked how important customer service is in a consumer’s choice of, or loyalty to, a brand, the overwhelming majority (90%) of consumers believe customer service is somewhat or even very important.
Source: Global State of Customer Service (Microsoft, 2020)
Failing to provide a great customer experience in social customer service damages your reputation and undermines customer loyalty. Today’s consumers expect you to be present and ready to interact on social media. Research shows that over 85% of companies expect CX via social media to further increase or remain the same over the next two years (as opposed to phone calls, for example, where the expectation is that interaction volume is going to shrink YoY). According to NTT the following are the five top reasons why consumers use social media to contact companies (source: Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report, NTT 2021):
- I get a faster response.
- It helps that I can see other people’s comments/reviews.
- It’s a great way to stay informed (sales, new products, outages, etc.)
- I like to post reviews.
- It’s an easy way to complain.
Regardless of channel used – CX is as important as it always was (maybe even more so): over half of all customers have actually stopped doing business with an organization due to poor service. If that is the case, and we know that many companies expect the number of social interactions to grow, yet only about half of all organizations offer full support via social media, let's look into how to best start supporting CX via social channels (without a major development project — or breaking the bank).
Many businesses start social media support with a solution that is not necessarily integrated with their contact center platform. That may have historical reasons – as mentioned earlier support for social channels may have started out in the marketing team and was not connected at all to the contact center, customer service, or CX team(s). If you do not currently handle social interactions at all (that means you are neither “listening” for public posts – positive or negative – your customers or prospects post on any social platform you want to support, nor can consumers get in touch with you using “direct messages”), you can look into implementing a dedicated solution to start listening and/or interacting. Cost may be relatively low, and this solution would be “contained” with no impact on your existing Customer service resources and Contact Center solution. There are disadvantages to this approach, though:
- Because you are deploying a separate system, there will be duplicate work for your organization – both in getting your solution going, as well as ongoing maintenance.
- Consider the impact of doubling administration, day-to-day management, reporting, and routing, as well as Agent training, scheduling, quality management, and the fact that your agents will be an entirely separate group of CSRs
- Unless you spend time and funds on integration, your agents will only be able to handle social interactions, regardless of interaction volume in other channels – they can neither pitch in for other channels nor get help should social channels unexpectedly get busier than expected or planned for.
If you haven’t done so, adding social customer service should be a priority – and one that is easily achievable if you are using CXone. Reach out to your NICE CXone contact to understand the favorable pricing options when adding social channels to your existing CXone platform. CXone provides consolidated administration, routing, reporting and WFO with a choice of 30+digital channels as well as the ability to implement any custom app or specific platform using “BYOC” (aka Bring Your Own Channel) – find more info on our website, or reach out to our experts for a free trial or live demo or keep on reading what our experts have to say on social media in the contact center, the impact to agents, supervisors and other CX professionals. Here are some more blog posts on Social Media in the contact center:
- Private Social Messaging Accelerates Customer Experience (CX) Transformation
- Younger Generations Expect Digital-first Customer Service - Are You Ready?
- Customer Service – The Social Way
- How to Get Your Social Care Agents Obsessed with Service
- How to Integrate Social Media in the Contact Center
Or if you are interested in seeing how it all works, take a look at this demo video…