20 lessons from the frontline of social customer service (part 1 of 3)

20 lessons from the frontline of social customer service (part 1 of 3)

Danielle Sheerin

Over the last few years I have helped a wide variety of organizations to embed best in class social customer service.

From hugely risk averse and heavily regulated financial service organizations, to stiff upper-lipped government departments with global responsibility for citizen safety through to fmcg cereal and shampoo carelines, they have all required different solutions. However, setting up and delivering, best in class social customer service does require some core elements, so I thought it would be useful to distill this experience to give my 20 learnings from the frontline of social customer service.

Over this series of 3 posts I will share my insight into what you need to have in place to deliver top-notch servicing on social media. Today I’ll be covering numbers 1-7 of my 20 learnings.

  1. Have a strategy: The chances are you have started delivering social customer servicing in an ad hoc way. Probably your PR or marketing team saw that customers were sending support queries on social media and started responding. Maybe at that point you got your customer service team involved and maybe even formalized your process somewhat. My bet is that you did all of this without stepping back to consider what your strategy was. This is a mistake but its OK; you can develop a strategy retrospectively. Get your core stakeholders together and work our what your social customer service needs to deliver; where is it going, what is the vision and how does it support your business goals? Once you have this in place you will know how to take it forward and start to realise the benefits social servicing can offer to your brand and customers
  2. Fix customer pain points: Have this commitment from the off. Your social customer support should be a squeaky wheel; it’s the way in which you will hear the truth about the service you deliver and the way in which your customers hear the truth too! Make sure you capture common friction points and have the resolution to take them back to the business to get something done about them, even if the cause is something that has been part of business forever. Best in class social customer service should be a catalyst for change – if its not, it will only damage your reputation in the long run
  3. Provide end-to end resolution: Where possible, keep customers in channel. Where you can’t do this (for example, where you need to verify customers or obtain personal information), take them to DM/PM or send a secure LiveChat link where they can speak to the same agent. Call them if you need to. To deliver best in class social servicing your agents should take ownership through to resolution. If you pass them to self-serve routes, make sure that they can actually resolution this way and give them a route back if they can’t. Don’t give them an email address or a web form to complete – they could have emailed in the first place but chose not to. And whatever you do don’t pass customers to a phone line – it will infuriate them and cost you a fortune.
  4. Keep internal structures only if they make sense for the customer: This follows from my previous point. In social customer service there should be no wrong door for the customer – they should not be passed to a different department. If you do need some queries to go to a different department, triage them internally, make it seamless for the customer. And only do it if you have good reason, i.e. that having a different team handle the query will deliver a better outcome for the customer.
  5. Empower your agents: Your social agents should be selected for the service skills and also the softer skills that social requires, e.g. judgment, empathy and tact. This wider skill set demands an appropriate grade and reward – these people are the public proof of your brand promises. Let them self organize. Give them permission to handle issues in the way they see fit. Listen to them when they tell you what’s wrong with your business. Let them be themselves when they talk to clients and encourage them to own issues to resolution. Champion them in your organisation as they are your brand ambassadors
  6. Tone of voice is crucial: Social media requires a very different tone to traditional support channels and getting your agents ready for this is a challenge. Begin by defining the right tone for your brand and then work with your agents so that they can deliver within this tone but also maintain their own personality. The objective is to deliver a consistent experience that is in line with the brand but is also human and personal. Its not easy but it is possible. Encourage your agents to put themselves in the customers’ shoes and practice mirroring and empathy.
  7. Training and governance are essential for safe operation: Make sure you have a well-defined target operating model and clear, workflow processes. Consider as many potential situations as you can and work out how these should be handled within these processes. Make sure your agents have these documented for reference in a playbook or set of guidelines. Train your agents in social media – not just how to use it but also its etiquette and best practice. Test their responses before they go live and make sure that they are confident and comfortable handling issues publicly.

So these are my first 7 insights. I’ll publish the next 7 next week, so be sure to check back to see numbers 8-14!

[photo credit: Andy Simonds]