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The Game Changer Channel: Integrating social media into customer management strategies

Helen Murray, chief customer solutions officer at Webhelp UK, considers how social media has changed the game for customer relationship management…

Today the social media challenge is falling firmly at the feet of customer management professionals. Though adopted initially as a promotional platform by marketing, it has become clear that it demands the operational capability and expertise that resides in the customer management domain.

Customers want and expect to be able to contact organisations via social channels. Most social media posts are made in the heat of the moment, frequently in anger and frustration or extreme delight. For this reason responses must be immediate. Consumers see social media as a ‘conversational’ medium and expect their conversations with you to be fluid and spontaneous and in real time.

Advisors must be equipped to communicate appropriately via social media. They need excellent product knowledge, of course, but also an ability to converse freely in a way that is immediate, direct and aligned with the brand. Many organisations recruit ‘social media geeks’ for this role. It’s a mistake. At Webhelp UK we have trained our best customer experience advisors to use social media.

The dominant skills that our agents already have, such as empathy, product knowledge and an ability to manage emotive situations mean they’re well equipped to handle difficult situations on social channels.

Social media is not a single channel but many, and the rules of engagement vary for each. It is a vast reservoir of customer comment and conversation. Through listening to these conversations we’re able to identify which social channels are used most extensively within a certain demographic.

This insight, alongside knowledge of the expectations of the customer demographic and business activity allow us to define the appropriate approach. Consumers may go to a fashion site for entertainment and recreation, they are unlikely to visit a utilities company’s site with the same intent. Understanding what is appropriate, commonplace and ‘leading edge’ within a sector will help to identify priorities.

As social media becomes a recognised customer management channel, companies must be able to evaluate their performance and improve it based on customer feedback. For our own clients we advocate a combination of Customer Effort and Customer Satisfaction to determine how well the customer has been served, supplemented with NPS to determine advocacy. In fact, we have developed ‘Touchpoint NPS’, which allows us to measure the customer experience across every channel in order to understand where we are performing best.

The ultimate goal must be to create a consistent, omni-channel customer experience, social media therefore cannot be viewed in isolation. Social channels must be integrated into a true omni-channel service operation. Achieving this will involve blending social media agents into your overall agent community. We have successfully multi-skilled agents to deal with social media and email, while allowing other agent teams to focus on voice and webchat. However, when an interaction is escalated from a social channel to voice it is vitally important that the agent handling the call is fully apprised of the preceding online conversation, which means channel integration on the agent desktop is key.

Through measuring performance and customer responses, we are able to understand the business contribution the channel is making both in terms of customer engagement (loyalty, advocacy, satisfaction and spend) and operational efficiency (reduced cost).

Finally, it is important to reiterate that achieving excellence in social media is of little value if other channels fall behind. Social media gives customers a platform from which to speak out against the inadequacies of the organisations that serve them. The lesson is an obvious one. Social media has raised the customer engagement stakes and we, as customer management professionals, need to raise our game in response, delivering an exceptional customer experience on every channel.

You may be in the early stages of formulating your social media strategy; you may have taken your first tentative steps. Either way, ‘The game-changer channel: Integrating social media into customer management strategies’ will help you to understand the shifting social media landscape and will provide recommendations for your progress.

The first in a series, in this paper we consider how customer management professionals can act to take ownership of social media and how they can integrate this into their customer contact strategies.

Meanwhile our forthcoming follow-up paper, ‘The Social Service’ will look in greater detail at how this can be achieved.

View our white paper archives to download this paper and others. Contact Helen on LinkedIn with questions or comments.


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