Improving Customer Service Through Social Media

Consumers are increasingly turning to social media for a wide variety of tasks including product and service related feedback. This feedback includes online reviews, service complaints, product defects, suggestions and general inquiries. Multi-channel customer service and support, which includes the increasingly important social media platforms, often creates significant challenges for companies as they must retrieve,…

Consumers are increasingly turning to social media for a wide variety of tasks including product and service related feedback. This feedback includes online reviews, service complaints, product defects, suggestions and general inquiries. Multi-channel customer service and support, which includes the increasingly important social media platforms, often creates significant challenges for companies as they must retrieve, review, respond and report across a plethora of platforms and websites. These include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, as well as many other platforms and sites which must be monitored and addressed. Let's review some of the key components of an effective social feedback and support initiative.

Retrieve, Listen & Learn

Many service teams are familiar with social media tools that automate company or brand name searches. These tools range from simple to sophisticated, helping companies search web pages and social media pages for keywords and keyword phrases. Listening to what customers are saying is only the beginning; once the automated tools identify posts and comments, then the real work begins. Companies must retrieve, review and then respond to the resulting posts, comments, suggestions and complaints.

Analyze & Classify

Depending on how much volume your brand's social media pages generate, it's important to analyze and classify customer activity to better understand the kind of issues being raised across the social media platforms. Companies should collect and analyze on a daily or even real time basis. As companies recover sufficient data for analysis, stratify responses into predetermined categories. For example:

  • When are customers most active on these platforms?
  • Total comments relating to poor customer experience.
  • Comment ratio – # positive versus negative.
  • Number of brand related comments describing a response.

These are just a few of the many comment permutations to be considered. It's easy to understand the challenges most customer service organizations face when it comes to social media feedback. Feedback should be classified according to predetermined business rules created by the service teams.

Monitor & Manage

Feedback speed of response is critical in today's exploding social media environment. Companies should triage their responses, prioritizing serious problems such as outages, defects, technical issues and negative comments with viral implications, ahead of other comments such as general comments and suggestions for refinements. Companies can create a customer service feedback priority list, parse comments into predetermined categories, classify according to predetermined business rules and respond accordingly.

Establish Response Goals

How fast do you need to respond to social media comments? Many experts agree that consumers using social media have very high response expectations when posting comments, questions and complaints online. Hours as opposed to days should be the mantra when it comes to this type of customer response. Autoresponders offer instant response, but these prefabricated responses often do little more than alerting customers that your service team has received their comment. Providing a rapid and accurate answer may involve an initial response via social media, with a follow up using a different service channel. For example, your customer service tweet might let the customer know you'll be calling or emailing the client within 24 hours (or sooner), depending upon your service priorities.

Social feedback solutions are imperative today, as the world rapidly embraces social platforms as a primary form of communication. Consider these recent statistics for unique monthly visitors to social media sites.

  • Facebook: 900,000,000
  • Twitter: 310,000,000
  • LinkedIn: 255,000,000
  • Google+: 120,000,000

Let's use Twitter for an example. There are about 350,000 tweets sent per minute, which equals 500 million tweets per day; how many of those relate to your company and brand reputation? What is your current and future customer recovery plan relating to this massive and increasing social feedback volume?

Respond & Resolve

Your company must define the issues and frame the responses that your social media customer service team will handle. This should be intelligently routed and done so on a real time basis. And your team will need to determine which types of posts do not require any response. It's illegally any organization can or should respond to every post or comment. Triage the comments, and determine which types of posts or comments must be addressed. To simplify this process, some companies use outsourced social feedback solutions to track, respond, monitor and analyze the data.

Report & Refine

There should be ongoing refinements to your response criteria based on emerging trends and social media platform changes. High quality systems and up to date methodologies should result in actionable information for continuous improvement.

Staff Up Or Outsource

As tools and technologies change with increasing frequency, many companies may find outsourcing part or all of their social media customer service initiative can be a more effective approach than staffing up internally. A successful social feedback solution offers businesses a listening tool to collect additional customer information to resolve customer complaints and, if necessary, take the conversation off-line for resolution.