Using Social Media for Customer Service

Social media is increasingly becoming the first place customers go to complain about poor customer service, but the brand representative who responds is typically in Marketing – not the Contact Center. Research indicates that customers still prefer traditional channels far more than social media when needing customer service. But that does not stop them from also sharing their experience on a social network or online review site, which is far more public. Would it make sense for the Contact Center to expand its reach and respond on social media?

A minority of companies are testing the idea of integrating their social media monitoring and response policies with their Contact Center. A new whitepaper from Interactive Intelligence Group explores its potential and the major challenges to initiate. It calls the proposal a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario: are customers not turning to social media for their customer support needs because companies are not providing support via social media, or are companies not providing support via social media because customers are not using that channel?

The core challenges of putting in to place a workflow solution between social media and customer service are, firstly, determining the responsibility and capability of each department – Marketing and Customer Service, and secondly, choosing an automated technology that can monitor and splinter information so that it gets into the right hands for response.

Most social media duties fall to Marketing because they are expected to have a solid grasp on the brand image and understand the implications of going off-brand on social media – a platform that amplifies any brand mistake like wildfire. The other issue is control – Marketing and PR professionals tend to be control freaks, and may not be able to immediately see that outsourcing some social media to the Contact Center would be beneficial. As one insurance CEO says in the whitepaper, “We have customer service reps that could handle these types of interactions, but there are concerns that they are not the right people to do this.” That may be just an issue of training, and that’s a relatively small solution that could offer significant long-term advantage.

But of course much depends on the nature of the business. Thinking about brands that are heralded for both quality customer service and engaging social media, Home Depot comes to mind. This brand manages to do both by letting their knowledgeable store employees respond to customer questions and DIY project ideas right on Facebook. They are in essence ambassadors for both Marketing and Customer Service.

As social media management becomes more automated, the Contact Center is getting pulled more and more into the activity. Ad hoc automated tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite assist brands in monitoring brand conversations and identifying the customer service requests that need resolving – but they can only do so much. Typically these tools are paired with a lot of manual searching. A higher performing CRM is needed to monitor and report on all social activity and then take the added step of triaging posts by specific keywords to a corresponding person in the Contact Center. That is a lot of reliance on an automated technology and a lot of testing to make sure it has semantic capabilities.

But if the integration is pulled off smoothly, something interesting happens that could change the fabric of social media – the social media interactions can be treated as another customer service interaction, just like phone calls, email, or web chat interactions.