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Power to the People: How Social Media Improves Customer Service


Facebook and Twitter are increasingly important channels for addressing customer concerns. Yet high response times and low response rates continue to frustrate consumers. Here’s how to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

The mainstreaming of Facebook, Twitter and corporate blogging creates more opportunities for companies to engage with, enrich and entice customers. As a result, most consumer-facing brands have a well-established social media presence. 

Most, however, are using social media primarily for sales and marketing — launching new campaigns, increasing awareness and promoting products and services with timed incentives. Few are using these platforms for customer service. 

In our view, this is a mistake. As digital natives and others increasingly turn to social media to vent their frustrations and celebrate their satisfaction, consumer brands in every industry must participate in customer service over social media.

Consider that inbound social media engagement with brands is growing nine times faster than social networks themselves. One in three social media users prefers social media as a way to reach brands, and 63% expect companies to participate, according to a report from Conversocial. Furthermore, 75% of consumers expect a social media response from customer service within one hour; half want a response in real time, according to our 2014 “Cognizant Communications Industry Customer Experience” survey. 

Moral of the story: Social media customer care is a high-stakes, high-payoff game – one that companies must play to stay relevant. 

Understanding Social Media Customer Care

Compared with conventional customer contact centers, social customer care carries several distinctive attributes: 

  • Service interaction among users and service providers is highly visible and public. 

  • Users are more likely to advocate a brand through retweeting or sharing a good experience throughout the network. 

  • Because of the “network effect,” the risks normally associated with poor customer service — negative brand perception, lost customers and weaker profits — only increase.

  • Complex customer issues can be harder to resolve through social customer care than through traditional contact centers. 

  • Redirection to other contact channels can be a potentially frustrating experience for customers. 

Given the highly visible nature of social media and the role it can play in building and increasing brand advocacy, a well-executed social customer care strategy can lead to huge payoffs. But participants will need to address key challenges, such as high response times and low response rates to customer queries on social media, as well as how to seamlessly redirect customer issues to other channels.

How Can Companies Improve the Service Experience?

Rather than trying to improve everything at once, companies should focus first on actions they can control to provide positive, transparent experiences to their social-savvy consumers. This can be done by prioritizing incoming tweets based on the severity of the issue and then using a demand-based system that assigns customer care agents to each queue. 

In our experience, the seriousness of a reported issue is determined by alert tools and services that recognize specific keywords and language used in tweets. Since this is largely context-specific, an easily configurable and customizable solution is usually needed, such as our Social Prism, a social-media monitoring and intelligence solution. 

With Social Prism, alert tools and services can also be configured with industry-, brand- and product-specific keywords to determine the severity level, as well as the need for channel redirects, depending on a brand’s policies for handling problems. Depending on its requirements, a company can choose a different strategy for prioritization that assigns higher importance to other attributes, such as number of followers, number of re-tweets or number of shares. 

An example is @ComcastCares, the telecom company’s successful Twitter support effort. Through prioritization and redirect handling, the team quickly identifies issues, answers questions and works with customers to resolve their connectivity concerns. 

Looking Forward 

As more people rely on social media to resolve their product concerns, companies must increasingly meet their requirements quickly or even in real-time. Regardless of whether you use a third-party, or develop an in-house prioritization system, finding a resolution to the following questions will help along the way. 

  • What platform do your customers prefer?

  • What are others doing right?

  • What are you doing wrong? 

  • What concerns are your customers most interested in resolving? 

  • What are you hoping to achieve with social care? 

  • How will you measure success?

To learn more, read Power to The People: Customer Care and Social Media, consider our Social Media Prism, or visit our Cognizant Business Consulting Practice

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