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Once you decide to engage in social media customer service, the next step is coming up with an effective strategy for implementing it. You know the “what” and they “why” of social media support, but who within your company should be the one to own this new platform? Should it be customer service? Marketing? PR? Sales? IT?
If you want a well-rounded, capable, and effective social media customer care team, then the answer is all of the above. Whether you are starting from scratch or hoping to maximize the quality and effectiveness of your current social media outreach, a jointly-owned social media department is the way to go.
This blog post will show you what makes a jointly-owned social media customer service strategy so necessary, and will walk you through how to implement one yourself. By learning these benefits and following the simple steps we’ve laid out for you, your newest support channel will be a hit – not a miss.
The blog post is included in [eBook] The Definitive Guide to Social Media Customer Service. Click here to download the full ebook.
Companies often fall into the trap of giving control of social media over to one department – usually Marketing.
On first thought, it seems to make perfect sense – in a world that’s increasingly virtual, social media is an excellent place to develop and implement new marketing schemes that will attract all kinds of customers to your product.
Unfortunately, however, it isn’t that simple. Companies that fall into this mindset overlook the reason that social media exists in the first place – to give people a platform where they can communicate, connect, and engage with people (and companies!), no matter their distance.
An effective social media team shouldn’t just push promotions and advertisements (although those are great and a normal part of social media outreach); they should also answer product questions, address concerns, and help customers when they need it.
A jointly-owned social media support strategy is one where the control of social media isn’t given over to a single department – rather, the company comes up with a social media task force that multiple departments contribute to, or “own” at once. This allows for a well-rounded social media presence, more effective customer service, and a great image for your brand.
Companies without a jointly-owned social media support strategy often suffer in the following ways:
When an untrained agent responds to a customer service email, he or she might end up completely overlooking what the last representative has written, and tell a customer something completely different. This is also possible for companies whose social media team comes from a single department, and who aren’t fully versed in the ins-and-outs of responding to customers as a team.
If your social media customer care is the hands of just the marketing department, then your team might not know how to respond to simple customer service queries. On the other hand, if your social media is the sole responsibility of your customer service department, then they too might not have the answers to specific marketing questions. If only one department owns this channel, you can count on slow replies, as representatives may have to reach out to a different department first for an answer before posting back.
The deadlier alternative to slow replies is no replies. Many companies that give control of their social media page to their marketing department do so without empowering their employees to engage with customers, or offering an engagement strategy whatsoever. The result is a social media page where personal inquiries, desperate complaints, and more comes in – but nothing goes out. Alternately, the inaction may also be due to a lack of clarity around who is responsible.
It’s natural that if your company has a social media customer service team that isn’t equipped with qualified customer service agents, they might fall into the habit of using canned messages. Although there is nothing wrong with canned messages themselves, canned messages that are used incorrectly, at the wrong time, or too frequently will kill any human tone that your social media page might have had, and make your brand harder to relate to.
One common, extremely avoidable (and irritating!) symptom of social media customer service being owned by a single department is clogged queues. When a company is owned purely by Marketing (or any other department that doesn’t have the resources, expertise, or institutional support to handle customer inquiries or complaints), then that company will often respond to their customers by asking them to reach out via a different channel – usually by phone, email, or even sometimes asking customers to switch social media platforms (i.e. from Facebook to Twitter). This leads to clogged queues, frustrated customers, and customer service agents overwhelmed by unnecessary repeat contact.
Slow replies, clogged queues, inconsistencies, and annoyingly canned messages all have one thing in common: they don’t make for good social media customer service.
Imagine your company’s social media page is hit by a wave of negative comments and reviews about your product and/or service. While the customer service team that you have in place may (or may not!) be adequately equipped or trained to reach out to these customers and handle their individual complaints, not having a jointly-owned social media strategy means that your representatives are probably not well-equipped enough to form a plan to prevent this from occurring again.
You heard right: By 2020, Customer Experience is expected to overtake price and product quality as what makes your brand stand up from the crowd. Social media customer service that is owned by a single department often leads to unsatisfied customers, which your company will feel in its pocket.
If your social media customer care team is only going to be good at one thing: why bother? After all, you want your company to be the best at what it does – why not extend the quality you strive for all throughout your service, and all the way to social media? When your company’s social media is owned by only one department, it falls flat and short of what you, as a brand, want your online customers to remember you by.
Doesn’t sound like that’s for you? Congrats! Companies with a jointly-owned social media customer service strategy enjoy the following benefits:
When your social media support is jointly-owned, customers can rest assured that someone on your social media customer support team is equipped to handle their question, problem or complaint. With a dedicated customer service staff working alongside marketing, IT, sales, and more, customer issues can be handled at once, without any annoying transfers. That takes pressure off the contact lines for the rest of the customer service department and allows social media to act as a true support channel.
When your customers aren’t calling in, your company is saving time and money. According to McKinsey, handling an inbound telephone call typically costs a company $6 to $8, whereas an interaction using social media costs less than a dollar. Social media can work just as well as call centers to upsell products or capture service-to-sales opportunities, and in this respect, it offers additional opportunities that aren’t possible via traditional phone calls. Imagine if you were standing next to two customers who were having a laugh trash-talking the competition: you might chime in and laugh alongside them, or maybe even offer your company’s services instead as a helpful tip. On social media, this is not only possible – it is a common practice for companies who have an effective jointly-owned customer service strategy and an engaged, empowered team.
When several of your departments own social media together, they are working together to give your customers what they need. With different heads in the mix, you can draw on the expertise of multiple teams and give your customers more accurate help. Additionally, since your jointly-owned social media support team will be empowered to help your customers online, they will be able to “push” links to customers in need, guiding customers to relevant content and/or videos that are more accurate and concise than support that they would have been given over the phone. Should your agents have to call a customer to help with a more complicated issue, a social media support team member will have all the resources needed to reach out to that customer, instead of making them call you.
Before Hertz shifted from a marketing-centered social media strategy to a jointly-owned system in 2014, the marketing department had control over the company’s social media accounts. In an article from the Harvard Business Review, social media and digital marketing expert Keith Quesenberry tells us the story:
By switching to a jointly-owned social media customer service strategy, the company adopted a social media customer care model that fit its customers’ expectations and need for speed.
When your customers are satisfied, they’ll return to your company for more. The higher accuracy, speedier response time, and one-and-done response potential of jointly-owned social media customer service is a recipe for success and customer retention.
Some companies don’t have the resources to, don’t realize the need to, or simply don’t want to bother with organizing social media customer care between different departments. With a jointly-owned social media customer care strategy, your social media customer service quality will beat the competition’s. A recent ExecsInTheKnow benchmark found that when asked which department in their organization is primarily responsible for social media engagement, the companies surveyed answered as follows:
30% Customer Care
This means that 79% of companies still have single-department ownership of their social media channel. That leaves a lot of room for you to develop your jointly-owned social media customer service strategy miles ahead of the bulk of the competition. And as for the 21% of companies who already have a jointly owned strategy – once you join them, you will be making your social media customer care the best it can be. And from there, you can beat them, too!
An omnichannel approach to customer support means that companies can seamlessly engage with their customers across all communication channels. This means being able to switch from one channel to the next without losing that customer’s context or history. However, as customer service expert, Shep Hyken says, “In the end, the customer doesn’t care about how many channels you make available to them. They just want to buy the way they want to buy, have their questions answered, their problems solved and their comments acknowledged.” He predicts that the future of customer service is not for all channels to work in sync, but for them to become so united that they become channel-less. “All the customer wants is to connect with a company. It’s not about a channel. It’s about making a connection. So, make it easy. Make it seamless. Make it ubiquitous. Make it channel-less!” With a jointly-owned social media support strategy, your departments will become seamlessly united in the goal of quality social media customer service, getting you off on the right foot to start your own channel-less customer service strategy.
When adopting a jointly-owned social media customer service strategy, the first step is to analyze your existing team structure, costs, and approach to social marketing. This will provide you with a better understanding of how your business can move toward channel-less (or omnichannel) social media support.
Maybe it’s your first time using social media as a customer service platform, and you’re starting from scratch. Maybe you already have a social media support team, but it’s run exclusively by Marketing or PR. In this first step, start to get a feel for how your operation is going, and where your business could take it. Ask yourself the following questions to get started:
How is your social media interaction right now?
How many social media inquiries do you get per day?
Do you want a proactive approach to social media?
Do you have the resources for a 24/7 social media presence?
Who could you move into this new jointly-owned social media task force?
Will the members of this jointly-owned social media task force work strictly on social media, or will they continue with their usual tasks as well?
Will this task force be connected online or can you take up office space to seat them together?
Sharing responsibility or social media customer care between departments isn’t an issue – however, organizing it can be. After you analyze your current team structures, organize your information to find a practical and cost-effective starting point. Consider writing down your company’s budget, an estimation of hiring costs (for your 24/7 social media team or for anyone that you might need to hire to replace staff who are going to be spending more time working on social media than in their old assignments), and names of responsible individuals who would do well on a social media team. Being organized will also help you down the line, as you develop training protocol, implement shared responsibilities and create a feedback loop.
The next step is to put together a team that can address all areas of social media customer service efficiently and effectively. Identify qualified individuals from your marketing, customer service, PR, sales, and IT teams, or from any combination of departments that will be best suited for the task.
What kinds of people should you bring aboard? In recalling one case study of an effective transition to a jointly-owned social media support system, McKinsey says that the team members chosen for this role needed to have “deep product experience, excellent writing skills, and the ability to act as strong customer advocates.” See to it that yours do, too!
Once you have your team picked out, it’s time for you to define your expectations. Depending on who is doing what on your team, some members may be full-time teammates; others, like IT, may be part of the team, but may not be required to participate in most everyday customer concerns.
It’s up to you to decide which teammates are expected to dedicate themselves fully to social media customer service, versus which ones will be taking care of some of their usual tasks as well. Should some of your social media task force continue to take care of their previous responsibilities, make sure that you emphasize that social media support is the priority. Social media is a public platform, and you want every team member available to contribute to situations as necessary.
Preserve the roles of your team and assign specific responsibility for certain types of communications over social media. Do you expect your team to just reply to direct wall posts and things your company is tagged in? Or should they proactively search for comments about your company (and competition) and get more involved in the conversation?
Should you have a remote team, make sure that hours are clear, and – should you have a 24/7 social media response team – that schedules don’t leave any gap of time where customers will go without a response.
Create brand guidelines for standards, tone, and style of social media communication (Does your brand have a sense of humor? Can you use emojis? Will your agents initial after every message, or act as if they are the brand talking?). Ask legal and human resources to provide a list of do’s and don’ts for real-time consumer engagement. You should also establish rules for data protection, to ensure your customers’ security. What account-specific info can be given online? What information needs to be checked before information can be disclosed? When should agents switch from public posts to direct messaging? And when should direct messaging be escalated to a phone call?
Once you have your guidelines, it’s time to give your team social media-specific training. Coach your staff through effective communication practices, to make sure that everyone in the team is on the same page. Marketing experts should make sure that social media knows of any ongoing promotions, etc. for smooth sailing and easy resolution of customer issues. In McKinsey’s case study, agents were trained both on the technical side of social media and on compliance (such as the kind of information appropriate to share in a public channel and when to take a conversation private, either through private digital channels, such as direct messaging on Twitter or e-mail, or through a phone call).
Make sure that all computers are set up, and that your team has any necessary passwords and permissions to do their job. Don’t forget to set up social media accounts if you haven’t already, and give employees access to social media systems. For easy, organized engagement, be sure to download and implement your software for monitoring social media conversations. It may also be necessary to set up live chat or a similar software to allow communication amongst your staff – this is especially important if members of your social media customer service team are not all in the same room together.
Empower your social media customer support staff to take care of as much as they can online via posts or direct messages. Give them as much leeway as possible to help your customers reach satisfactory solutions.
Define specific goals based on key performance indicators, and make these unique to social media. What social media response rate are you going to aim for? How engaged do you want your customers to be? How many positive comments should you receive for each negative one? How many times have your posts been viewed, liked, or shared, and what numbers are you aiming for? Come up with tangible, number-based goals, and use them to track and improve your performance.
Make sure that you are constantly communicating with your new team. Do they feel prepared to tackle anything? Is there anything they need more training on? Is there any process that can be improved?
Work on establishing a practical system for turning social media feedback into tangible improvements – since multiple departments are in this together, this should be easier than ever! Keep encouraging all members of your team to work together, communicate with one another, and report through the proper channels, and watch your new social media customer service strategy do its magic.
Having a jointly-owned social media customer service strategy isn’t the only thing you need for your company’s social media to go above and beyond. It is, however, a necessary part of this process.
With your jointly-owned social media customer support strategy, you will have effective, capable agents, a feedback loop that works, and – most importantly – a better, more fluid online relationship with your customers than you ever thought possible.
Want more reading? Check out our blog post 9 Effective Tips for Customer Service on Social Media to learn how else you can satisfy your customers today.