Yesterday I was interviewed by the lovely Paolo Fabrizio for my first ever podcast on social customer service. In it we discuss what it is and why it is important, right down to the nitty gritty of the essential steps to set up great social media servicing and how to manage the inherent risks of public customer engagement.
If you have an interest in Social Customer Service and spare 45 minutes (a boring commute perhaps…?), I urge you to give it listen. I really enjoyed doing it and I think there’s some pretty useful stuff in there!
If you prefer to read rather than listen a transcript of (most of) the conversation can be found below…
- Who is Danielle Sheerin? Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I’m co-founder and consultant at BrightCultures, a social media customer engagement consultancy based in the UK.
BrightCultures is my business partner Caz and myself, and we specialise in helping large organisations setup and develop best in class social media customer service and engagement.
Between us we’ve over 15 years experience in social media consultancy and in the past we’ve helped organisations like Barclays, RBS, MBNA, Direct Line and O2 create the right structures and processes to deliver excellent social customer service
From a personal point of view, I love designing systems that work, so that really motivates me – but the main thing that drives BrightCultures is creating new and better solutions for customers. I hate bad service and if I can help an organisation take a step back and reassess how they think about and treat their customers, then I’m happy!
- Imagine you’re talking to somebody who doesn’t know anything about Social Customer Service (SCS). How would you define it?
In its simplest sense, social customer service is where organisations offer customers support on social media channels – Twitter most commonly but also Facebook, YouTube and other social networks too on occasion.
So, if a customer tweets a brand with a complaint, that brand would see the tweet and respond to the customer in Twitter to help them get a resolution.
It sounds simple but as with most things it is usually more complex than that. Many brands are reluctant to engage with customers around issues and problems in a public space and good process design, governance and escalation procedures are usually required before engagement can start.
Also social media engagement takes a different set of skills to traditional servicing engagement, so agents typically have to learn a whole new way of doing things – not only digital training but also softer skills like empathy, judgement and ownership.
Additionally, to offer a good service on social media you need to ensure that customers can get resolution in that channel. There is simply no point in passing them back to another, more costly channel, as it only going to frustrate the customer. This means you need to create a whole new set of workflows and tools internally that allow your agents to provide end-to-end servicing in channel. Often a complex task!
As you can see, a lot goes into getting social customer service right and the detail of the models used are often unique to each business!
- Do you think SCS is important for any kind of business? Why?
Yes, I think its essential in this day and age because that’s where customers are.
When Barclaycard contacted us to help them create a social customer service solution back in 2010, it was because the comms team who had noticed that customers were talking about the brand on social media and that they needed to be ready to respond. That was 5 years ago. Imagine how much conversation about brands happens on social media now. One large company I was talking to recently told me they have 100,000 mentions per month!
If your customers are there and they are asking for information, or help or are complaining about you, you should be responding! Social media is public – if you are ignoring customers on social media you are creating a very poor impression of your brand and potentially risking significant reputational damage.
Also, I think brands not only need to offer social customer service but to take it seriously too – offering poor social customer service is equally damaging to your brand – businesses not only need to be doing it but doing it well!
- We’ve met up at Social Customer Service Summit in London a few months ago; how about that event? What did you appreciate the most?
Yes, I really enjoyed that event. For two reasons I think – firstly it was so nice to have an event dedicated to social customer service – quite often social customer service gets subsumed into social media marketing or general customer experience. I really liked this event for taking social customer service seriously and allowing us the space to really explore what best practice looks like in this arena. Secondly I liked the fact it shared so many brand stories and case studies – it felt very practical and the peer-to-peer advice and insight was really refreshing.
- How brands can deliver a great customer experience combining self-service options and personalisation?
I think the key with self-service and personalisation is to understand where it adds value to the customer. To my mind self-service is great but only in situations where it makes the customer’s life easier – not where it makes the businesses life easier!
I try to encourage clients to take a close look at customer pain points and understand where self-serve, personalisation or other value-add services can remove these or at least remove the friction around getting them resolved. Done right, this should reduce costs and allow you to deflect some volumes to your social customer service agents – but those agents are still essential – self-service should not replace human interaction in all instances. For complex, personal issues customers will on the whole require personal support.
The hotel business has understood this model for a while. High-end hotels have been really innovative in creating tools and apps to do things like change your room temperature or arrange dry cleaning – however, they haven’t done away with the concierge desk downstairs – they recognise that not everything can be done with an app, and sometime you just need to speak to a human.
Brands need to recognise this and aim for this sort of distinction in their service design.
- In your interesting article on LinkedIn ‘A new model for crisis assessment’ you explain how to detect crisis from simple issues. What are the main risks for brands deriving from online complaints or attacks?
A lot of brands know that social media comes with risks but for many brands I think this fear is fairly unfocused – they know the risk is there but aren’t sure exactly what it is and how to handle it.
Broadly speaking the risks are: 1. You say something wrong, 2. You do something wrong or 3. Someone does something wrong to you.
Of course it doesn’t end there – the real risk of social is its size and speed – so the real risk is what happens next – how does your community react.
My model for crisis assessment came about because a client of mine recognised this and wanted a way to be able to work out how the community might react to an issue and what impact this could have on his brand – the idea was that this would give an idea on how to prioritise and manage the response.
The model itself looks at 3 factors of crises – reach (how many people are talking about it and how influential are they), impact (how seriously is it affecting people and how many are affected) and depth (how much at fault is the organisation – could it have been prevented?)
What we suggest is that if only one of these factors is present, it is usually only an issue – e.g. if lots of people are talking about something but not many people are affected and the business has done nothing wrong – then its just a PR issue.
However, if you have lots of people affected and it was the organisation’s fault and an influencer has also picked up the story you are starting to look at a crisis brewing!
So far the model seems to be pretty useful for helping spot and determine the severity of issues and also how to handle them.
However, it is better if these issues don’t arise in the first place, so good governance and training can protect brands for risk. Also, proper crisis management training on social media is also essential for brands to understand how to manage crises once they have broken!
- Why/how brands should embrace social channels and integrate within their customer service? Please quote main steps.
OK, I have 8 main steps for you here – but there is a lot to be done in each one!
- First know what you want to achieve – define your social customer service vision and goals – this is your strategy and its essential for guiding activity
- Check this with stakeholders – do they share the ambition? If so, are they willing to support it? You may well need them for budget and resource but you will also need internal change to make your social customer service work – they will need to be onside if you are going to deliver this!
- Next design your customer journeys – work out how a query will be responded to on social? What queries will there be? How can you provide the most efficient/effective response? How will you triage queries
- Using that as a base you can now work out the structure of the service. Where will you take your social customer service agents from? Will they be ring-fenced? How many will you need? What will need to be escalated? Ask yourself, is your structure the right one for the customer and not just your internal silos?
- What tools are you going to need to deliver this? Do they support your workflow? How do they tie up with your other tools, CRM etc?
- You’ll also need to identify and select your agents? What skills do you need and how can you test for these? Train your agents and get them ready for live responses!
- You also need to consider how are you going to monitor and measure your activity? What metrics will you need and what KPIs? How often will you review insights and what will you do to improve the service? What other teams need to see this information?
- Finally, once you are up and running go back to your strategy – what is next for your social customer service – what was your vision. Maybe you want to extend the service to offer proactive servicing, create a single customer view, build an advocate program or design a fluid omnichannel experience – whatever your original vision was – don’t lose it. Social customer service is just the first step to transforming your wider digital customer experience!
- What’s the state-of-the-art of Social Customer Service in UK? Which industries are ahead of the pack?
Hmm, I’m not sure about specific industries but there are some individual companies doing very well.
One of my clients, Direct Line just won an award for Most Empathic Brand on Twitter from Harvard Business review, so it’s worth looking at them to see how tone of voice on social should work.
KLM the airline has also been ahead of the pack – they have used social servicing to innovate some really interesting customer experiences and have really started to wow customers with some of their engagement campaigns.
O2 are also very good – they have a great online personality and have really empowered their agents to deliver a great brand experience.
Train company First Great Western have used social media for proactive servicing really well – keeping customers up to date when disruption happens. When the UK had big storms last year they really worked hard to ensure that customers had the right information as quickly as possible.
DIY chain B&Q also do social customer service well – they obviously take it seriously and have long operating hours and a fast SLA. I also like the way they tie up on and offline – getting you help in store if you need it.
Finally I’d also say Tesco – for the sheer volume of their operation they do a really good job!
- Where can we find you online?
We have a blog on our website – www.brightcultures.com and we regularly do a round up of interesting social customer service news. I’m also on Twitter @daniellesheerin and of course on LinkedIn, so do feel free to connect to me on there!
Photo Credit [Elizabeth Hazlam]