E moderation social_media_and_customer_service-may-2013


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E moderation social_media_and_customer_service-may-2013

  1. 1. Social media and customer service A massive 80% of companies plan to use social media for customer service. This white paper examines how customer service is evolving, and gives practical advice on how to use social channels to deliver great service to consumers. Authored by eModeration CEO Tamara Littleton May 2013 www.emoderation.com
  2. 2. Social media and customer service Table of contents Customers are social............................................................................................................................ 3 Social media customer service: the landscape.................................................................................. 4 Why brands should get to grips with social media customer service............................................. 6 What you can expect from customer queries on social media......................................................... 8 Best practice advice: things to do to deliver great social media customer service..................... 10 Twitter and Facebook rule the customer service airwaves, but for how long?............................ 13 Social customer service is now a differentiator for brands............................................................ 15 About eModeration............................................................................................................................. 16 2
  3. 3. Customers are social Social media is blurring the lines between social media marketing and customer service. Customers are asking product or service-related questions on social channels that are primarily run by marketing departments. Social media managers of branded social pages are having to respond to customer queries which have the potential to reach a global audience. A global survey by Oracle in Q4 2011 (cited by McInsey Company in its Social Care – Social Media Meets Customer Care report in December 2012) found that customers expected a response within 30 minutes on Twitter, and, as a minimum, the same day on Facebook. That timeframe has reduced significantly in our experience: our best practice recommendation is that brands have 15 minutes to acknowledge an issue on Twitter, and an hour on Facebook. But the upside is huge: 71% of customers recommend a brand that gives them a ‘quick and effective’ response on social media, according to NM Incite’s 2012 social care study. The result of good customer service is brand advocacy, the holy grail of social media to marketers. In this white paper, we have collated some of the best thinking on customer service, and combined it with our own experience to give you practical advice on how to deliver excellent customer service on social media. We look at the impact that social media is having on customer expectations, and what to expect from customers on social channels. We also recommend which channels to use (and which not to – or at least, not yet), and give tips on best practice. And there are lots of examples throughout of companies who are doing it well, plus a few where there is room for improvement. Great customer service on social media is achievable for every company. It just needs the right approach and resources to deliver it. Social media and customer service 3
  4. 4. Social media customer service: the landscape According to a report on Mashable, 80% of companies plan to use social media for customer service. Research in March 2013 from Simply Measured shows that 30% of the Interbrand top 100 brands already have a dedicated customer service feed on Twitter (99% of these brands have some sort of presence on Twitter). This is driven by consumer demand. A Forbes interview with Genesys’ Head of Sales, Tom Eggemeier, reveals that consumer demand is growing significantly quicker than companies’ implementation of social customer care strategies. In the interview, Eggemeier says: “Consumer behavior is changing much faster than companies are adapting… Companies are still seeing social media through the lens of marketing, not as part of an overall brand execution strategy.” But there are reports of businesses unable to cope with resourcing social customer service. US cable firm Charter shut it social media customer care (‘Umatter2Charter’) on Twitter and Facebook in December, reportedly to focus on traditional channels, saying social media was just too time- consuming. According to Aberdeen Group, 59% of companies don’t yet integrate customer care to their social media delivery. There is a serious resource issue here. NM Incite’s 2012 social care study finds that: “47% of all social media users have used social care, with usage as high as 59% among 18-24 year olds; usage spans all ages and genders.” Is Twitter the first or last resort? There are suggestions in some sectors that Twitter is the only way for consumers to get good customer service. Research by StellaService analysts tested Twitter against traditional call centres for flower retailers on Valentine’s Day this year, and found that interactions on Twitter beat phone calls to customer care teams hands down. Forbes’ Managing Editor of Business News, Dan Bigman, went so far as to say: “If you’re like me and you didn’t get the flowers you ordered for your wife on Valentine’s Day, and then you felt like a complete idiot for wasting a hunk of your day or so on the phone with no result, that’s because you are an idiot. If you want customer service these days, use Twitter. Period.” Social media and customer service 4
  5. 5. LA Fitness, BT and Halifax are all cited in a Guardian article as examples of firms that use Twitter effectively for customer service but in all cases Twitter has been used as a last resort when traditional channels have failed. Is it the threat of bad publicity that makes Twitter such an effective way to get a company to take notice? Or is it that the team on social media channels naturally have the mindset to respond quickly? Either way, Twitter’s reputation as an effective issues resolution channel will only increase its use. Already, social media customer service is becoming ‘the new normal.’ In the words of Carousel30’s Greg Kihlström and Kaitlin Carpenter: “The new normal is that consumers want to access content, buy products and receive customer service wherever they are with whatever they’re holding.” Social media and customer service 5
  6. 6. Why brands should get to grips with social media customer service Customer service has long been multichannel (or ‘omnichannel’ for buzzword fans). But those multiple channels are only now including social media as standard. Customer service isn’t, in our view, an ‘either/or’ option. Customers will choose where and how they talk about you (if you’re not listening on the channels they choose, you have no option to hear them and resolve issues) and they should be able to choose where and how they talk to you. There are some real advantages for brands in tackling this head on: Talk to customers on their terms. Customers will talk about you on social channels whether you choose to get involved or not. Brands really have two choices: ignore customers on the channels they’re using; or use social channels to monitor and resolve issues quickly. Like it or not, this is the age of the ‘empowered buyer’. Melanie May, writing for B2BMarketing.net, says: “Giving customers what they want may not be the quickest way to make money, but this, in the age of the empowered buyer, is increasingly becoming key to long-term business survival. Yet while customer centricity has become a popular buzzword, few businesses are currently accomplishing it.” Improve the customer experience. A report in CRM Buyer talks about the need to ensure that the customer has the same experience of customer service no matter what channel they use to interact with you. The ‘omnichannel’ view of customer service requires real integration of social data with CRM systems, to improve the customer experience: customers expect to be recognised across different channels (as far as data privacy allows). And as we’ve seen from the examples above, there’s still a lot of work to be done to make customer service equally good over any channel. Improve customer trust. Analysis by Avaya (and a great infographic) states that 43% of consumers prefer to connect with businesses over the Internet, and 51% of consumers trust a company’s online forums more than its website. Unsurprising, perhaps – but it does show the need for a brand to make sure any issues on those forums or communities are dealt with quickly and effectively. A customer’s experience is rarely a private experience. We know that customers will use social channels to shout about both good and bad experiences with a brand. If your review sites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and forums are full of unresolved issues, that’s not going to help win you new customers or followers. There are even specialist issues resolution services springing up (Resolver is an interesting one to watch in this space; it handles customer complaints for free, and sells analysis to brands on how to improve customer service). Social media helps reach younger audiences. The number of people interacting with a brand on social media increases dramatically in 18-25 year olds (Avaya). Self-service communities can reduce pressure on customer care teams. While we’re focusing on public social media channels in this paper, it would be remiss not to mention self-service or Social media and customer service 6
  7. 7. dedicated social care communities. ASOS, which has an amazing reputation for customer service on social media, uses Get Satisfaction for a (partly) self-service community for ASOS Marketplace. The advantage of this approach is to take conversations off public channels, and group questions by subject, so that one customer service representative can answer common questions in one place. Dell’s community pages include tech support where users can help each other, and groups for customers to share ideas. To make communities like this work, you need a well-defined strategy to encourage people to use them, and a process for taking discussions off public channels into the dedicated community. It’s good practice to direct people to the right threads within a community, to keep conversations appropriate and on-topic; and to feed any issues back to the brand. (This is a huge topic in itself; if you’re looking for more information on self-serve communities, the Get Satisfaction blog is a good place to start.) Social media and customer service 7
  8. 8. What you can expect from customer queries on social media We are often asked questions such as: “What should I expect from social customer service?” “What will customers ask me on Facebook?” “What resources should I put behind a customer care team on social media?” “How quickly should I respond to a query on Twitter?” Here, we hope to answer some of those questions. Volume: Research from Simply Measured indicates that of the top brands using Twitter for customer service, 15% respond to 10 or more tweets a day; 7% to 50 or more tweets a day; and just 3% to 100 or more tweets a day. Start small, but be prepared to increase volumes as you build awareness of your social channels. Dealing with negativity: Just over half (52%) of customer feedback on social media is negative, according to a study of 40 top brands by Brandwatch. The majority of this negative feedback relates to dissatisfaction with customer service. According to the study: “Social media users were more likely to take to the web to voice general discontent of a brand’s customer service than for any other reason, corresponding to the negative perception of the survey as a whole. This was particularly prevalent in the utilities sector.” In the main, negative feedback isn’t determined by the channel through which it’s reported, but by the service provided by the brand (YouTube may be an exception to this rule, where comments tend to be more abusive than on other channels). Brandwatch found that the three UK companies noted for being the best at delivering great customer service – John Lewis, Waitrose and BQ – all had a much higher than average report of positive feedback. The lesson here is not to get off social media, but to get your customer service strategy right across the business in order to reduce negative feedback. Nokia US’s social media manager, Sean Valderas, was quoted in an interview by Ron Miller on Citeworld on the company’s goal to create trust and dispel negativity by creating content that addresses the community’s common questions. Miller quotes Valderas as saying: “Being that our role is as customer support, our content creation is centered on product and application tips which proactively address the most frequent types of questions that our followers have.” Customers want a quick response: Jeff Zabin, writing for CRM Buyer, says too many companies are transferring their offline practices online; response times which might be acceptable for an email are not sufficient on social channels. He cites research from Gleanster that found many companies take 24 hours to respond over social media, and in his view that’s 23 hours too long for most customers. Social media agency Ignite analysed the response times of brands to posts and customer comments on Facebook (using Expion data). The results make interesting reading. Social media and customer service 8
  9. 9. KLM, lauded as a leader in social media customer service since it used social media to help stranded passengers after Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010, averaged 26 minutes to first respond to a post on Facebook. Wal-Mart is shortly behind, at 28 minutes, followed by retailer Next Online at 36 minutes and Xbox at 38 minutes. Seven of the top 10 companies respond within an hour. In the same study, KLM tops the list of companies measured by the amount of Facebook page posts by customers to which the company responded: it has an impressive 92% response rate to customer posts. Customers want a direct answer to a direct question: one of the biggest challenges facing brands is how to find direct requests or responses among the background noise of Twitter and Facebook. A survey by Software Advice (reported on Teletech.com) put brands to the test by sending out a series of tweets over 26 days to some of the biggest brands in the world. Some were ‘urgent’, some were requests for help, others were negative feedback or praise. Pepsi and Bank of America were top of the respondents list (Pepsi responded in 19 seconds; Bank of America had the highest response rate). But the names that failed to respond at all to any of the 26 tweets might surprise you: Apple, Starbucks, Wal-Mart (which as we’ve seen above, scores highly on Facebook) and Visa. There shouldn’t be a discrepancy between quality of service on different channels. Your customers won’t care that you couldn’t get hold of the right person in your organisation quickly enough to answer their question. Social media and customer service 9
  10. 10. Best practice advice: things to do to deliver great social media customer service Here are our tips for best practice in social media customer service: Establish your objectives at the outset. Agree what you want social media customer service to achieve. Is it reduced cost? Increased resolution time? Better user experience? This will define how you measure its success, and how you allocate resource. Monitor and track conversations. This is, really, the very basis of any good customer service. If you don’t know what’s being said about your brand, you can’t respond. There are any number of social media monitoring tools out there, which leads us to… …Triage posts. If you’re dealing with hundreds or even thousands of queries a day, you’ll need a combination of technology (such as Radian6 or Sysymos) and human analysis to help you identify those posts which need a response. Tools such as Augify can help you determine intent (such as intent to buy) and emotion, rather than just relying on the more traditional ‘positive, negative, neutral’ sentiment, which is extremely useful when you triage social content. Add a layer of human insight to this to understand which posts are the most important. Use good management tools. Social CRM is a whole topic in its own right, but worth a mention here is Comufy, which can help companies integrate social data in to CRM systems. This goes a long way to getting a single view of a customer across different channels – really helpful to your customer service team. Moderation and management tools (such as Adobe Social or Conversocial) will let you manage and track customer conversations, as well as your responses, so you have a record for both marketing and legal purposes. Don’t silo social media from customer service. Customer service should be an integrated part of your social media approach (and vice versa). The user experience should be equally good whatever the channel. Get your social media team right from the outset. Include customer service specialists, marketing and legal representatives who are on hand to answer urgent questions. There’s a really interesting discussion on Saleforce’s Marketing Cloud blog (written by Jeffrey L Cohen) that recaps a debate between Ford, GM and Chrysler on the importance of social customer service, including having the right people in place. Cohen summarises the point as follows: “The same people who respond by phone and email are not necessarily the right people for social media customer care. You can establish rules, policies and terms of engagement for social media, but in the end your agents need to respond as people. This may not be easy for those who have been Social media and customer service 10
  11. 11. following phone scripts for years. This means have a bit of fun and personality. Be unscripted, but understand where the lines are and you will make better connections. If your customers have an emotional attachment to your products, make sure your social media agents have that same passion. Even in 140 characters, it shows.” Train your social customer service team properly and give them the authority to act. Zappos reportedly trains all employees on Twitter as part of a new hire training programme. And anyone interacting with customers over any channel should have the appropriate authority to resolve issues. Ron Miller on Citeworld quotes Nokia’s Valderas, saying: “Social is breaking down the communication barrier between the consumers that are experiencing issues in the field and our key internal experts that can create and communicate solutions.” Without being able to access experts, the trust between the brand and the consumer breaks down, and the channel becomes useless. Choose your channel(s). Don’t spread your resources too thin. While it’s important to monitor every social channel over which your customers are talking about you, it’s better to focus on delivering service well over a few channels, than trying to be all things to all people. For consumer brands, Facebook and Twitter still rule the roost (but see our analysis of the up and coming channels, below). Resource it properly. The example of Charter, mentioned previously, is a salutary lesson. You don’t want to be in a position of having to close down a Twitter handle called ‘wecare’ if you (presumably) don’t care enough to resource it properly. Plan additional staff for busy times, and have a team on standby in the event of a crisis. Consider outsourcing all or part of your social media management to a company that can scale up or down as you need it. Good monitoring tools and escalation processes can really help identify when you need additional resource. Respond quickly. Our recommendation to clients is that for a really serious breaking issue, you have around 15 minutes to acknowledge the issue on Twitter, and slightly longer – an hour – on Facebook. For less serious customer issues, these times can be a little longer. Don’t feel you have to get involved in every discussion. Responding to customer posts is important in most cases, but there are times when it’s best to walk away. You should never have to deal with aggressive behaviour, or extremism, or bullying; and sometimes no amount of intervention can pacify someone who just wants to vent anger. Set your guidelines for your customer service team from the start, so they know when to walk away. Set the rules for your customer community, and moderate content. Never leave abusive or inappropriate content, swearing or spam on your customer community. Set the rules clearly, and enforce them. Nothing says ‘we don’t care’ like a Facebook page full of spam. Social media and customer service 11
  12. 12. Social media and customer service 12 Group answers to commonly asked questions if you’re short of time. In busy times, it may not be possible to respond to every single post by every single customer. If there are recurring questions from customers, answer them in a ‘group’ post, such as “To all our customers who’re asking about the service outage today, we can confirm that…” Consider splitting your customer service feeds from your main social media feeds. ASOS Here To Help and BTCare are both great examples of brands that have split their customer service streams in order to encourage a more private conversation, away from the public channels. It’s more manageable for the brand, and stops your main feed being cluttered with customer queries. Accept criticism, and act to right wrongs. It is possible to turn an angry customer into a loyal advocate with the right customer service. Spot an issue quickly, and put it right, fast. It’s not always about financial compensation, either: sometimes a customer wants suggestions, feedback or quick help; Salesforce has a great Prezi showing how the right handling can resolve a customer issue quickly. What you don’t want to do is what home delivery firm Yodel did: threaten to sue Twitter if critical tweets weren’t deleted. (It’s not clear whether Twitter acted on these threats – according to Gordon McMillan, writing for The Wall blog, Twitter doesn’t discuss individual cases – but even if it did, Yodel has landed itself a lot of negative publicity on the back of the case.) Take complex discussions offline where possible. If a customer query is going to extend beyond a couple of posts, it’s better to take it to email, online chat, a dedicated community or even a phone call. The risk of keeping long, complicated conversations on Twitter or Facebook is that you risk broadcasting the problem to a wider audience. This problem has been made slightly easier by Facebook’s introduction of threaded comments on brand pages (caveat here: at the time of writing, Conversocial is the only management tool to let you manage threaded comments on Facebook, but that is likely to change over the coming weeks). Respond with an appropriate tone of voice and personalisation. O2 in the UK responded to an incredibly difficult and prolonged service outage issue with a personal touch, and humour where it was appropriate. Show that you’re a human being, not a robot. It’s also a good example of how personalisation can help the brand counter negativity.
  13. 13. Social media and customer service 13 Twitter and Facebook rule the customer service airwaves, but for how long? Twitter and Facebook are certainly the most commonly used channels for customer service. But others are raising their heads. Here is our take on the ones to watch: Instagram While it’s early days to advise brands to proactively run customer service programmes on Facebook-owned Instagram, this channel is one to watch. It’s growing, fast, and according to Simply Measured, 59% of the Interbrand Top 100 companies already have a presence on Instagram. (It’s worth noting that it doesn’t support Twitter any more.) Most notable in our view is Topshop (this description of Topshop’s Instagram is taken from the retailer’s ‘Insight Out’ blog): “Want to see what we’re up to at Topshop HQ? Well now you can with our Instagram! Giving you a sneak peek of anything and everything that says eye- candy to the style hungry, expect to see all sorts from what the girls in the office are wearing to pieces we spy on the buying floor! Find us on Instagram @Topshop and be sure to tag any Topshop pieces in your own snaps with #topshop.” Brands are using Instagram as a marketing channel, and (broadly speaking) where there’s marketing, there’s customer service. Consumers are sharing brand images (encouraging them to hashtag images is a great way of keeping track of what’s being shared that’s relevant to your brand), and some of those images might need a response. As Ryan Northover says on his blog post for Social Media Today: “Don’t be afraid to engage users who are sharing negative images about your brand.” Google+ Google+ is increasingly being used as a marketing tool for brands, and there are some major features that mean customer service on Google+ is set to grow over the next year, assuming consumers demand it. Most notable are: nn hangouts, where you can talk direct to customers, and showcase new products, services or ideas; nn communities, which you can use to collect ideas, feedback or questions from customers; nn circles, which is still the simple way to segment customers on any social channel; nn Google Ripples, which lets you see the viral impact of your posts (useful in identifying influencers or potential brand ambassadors, as well as prioritising responses to negative posts).
  14. 14. Social media and customer service 14 In truth, there are few brands which need to use Google+ for customer service yet, as Facebook still seems to be the channel where customers will post complaints and requests (take a look at ASOS on Google+; the brand posts regularly, but the comments are mostly things like ‘I love this’ and ‘how cool’, and a few +1s, rather than anything that needs a direct response). But there’s no doubt that as consumers increase interaction with brands on Google+, it will become more important. Pinterest While brands are using Pinterest for marketing purposes (mostly with links back to their main website, or other ‘owned’ community), there’s little customer interaction, at the time of writing, on Pinterest. While people can comment on photos, most consumer activity is simply re-pinning to existing boards, rather than interacting with brands. YouTube YouTube is a great vehicle for displaying ‘how to’ videos to customers. Have a look at Apple’s YouTube channel for examples – although note that comments are disabled under each video (possibly a sensible move given the kind of comments that YouTube historically seems to attract). Brands should certainly monitor YouTube, but its real value for customer service interaction within the posts remains to be seen. Other sites: notable mentions If you’re looking for the next big channel in customer service, it’s always worth watching where Zappos is heading. Currently, it focuses most of its effort on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram, but is, according to Kelly Clay on Forbes: “…developing strategies to connect with customers [on] other platforms in 2013 such as Tout, Pose, Tumblr, Polyvore, Reddit, Medium, and SocialCam.” These are all channels to keep an eye on over the next year, but it’s still important to monitor all channels for customer issues, particularly those such as Reddit where passions can run high.
  15. 15. Social media and customer service 15 Social customer service is now a differentiator for brands Forrester, in its 2013 report The Future of Customer Service, claims that customer service is moving from being a cost centre to a differentiator. Author Kate Leggett says in her blog on the subject: “Customer Service Is Moving From Cost Center To Differentiator: Customer service organizations are typically managed as a cost center. Key success metrics focus on productivity, efficiency, and regulatory compliance instead of customer satisfaction. However, we are seeing that customer service organizations are gradually adopting a balanced scorecard of metrics that include not only cost and compliance, but also customer satisfaction, and which are more suited to drive the right agent behavior and deliver better outcomes.” If customer service is a differentiator, and customers are turning to social media for the provision of at least part of that service, we all have to be ready. It’s an exciting – and challenging – time for social customer service.
  16. 16. Social media and customer service 16 About eModeration eModeration is a social media management agency which delivers high-quality multi-lingual community management and moderation services, social media consultancy, and crisis management training and simulations. With offices in London, Los Angeles and New York, we work with some of the world’s biggest brands across a wide range of industry sectors. These include: automotive, kids and entertainment, FMCG, financial services, luxury brands, media, pharmaceutical, publishing, and telecoms. The agency works with leading global brands, including BBC Worldwide, HSBC, Mind Candy (Moshi Monsters), MTV, Sony Mobile, ITV, Hyundai, Smirnoff, the LEGO Group, Sprint and The Economist. It also works with a growing roster of agencies, including Starcom MediaVest Group, Wieden + Kennedy, Ogilvy, Saatchi Saatchi, DDB Worldwide, Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Publicis Groupe. Committed to providing a safe and engaging social media experience for children and adults, eModeration’s CEO Tamara Littleton has over 11 years’ experience of community and social media management and moderation. She has also advised the UK government on guidelines for child safety. eModeration contributes to the development of social media expertise via its white papers, blogs and sponsorships, and has a strong roster of returning clients who appreciate the quality of its services and expertise in social media tools and trends. For further information, or to speak to Tamara Littleton, CEO of eModeration, please contact us at info@emoderation.com. eModeration Ltd, The Media Village, 131-151 Great Titchfield St, London W1W 5BB, UK Tel: +44 (0) 203 178 5051 © eModeration Limited 2013. This document is the intellectual property of eModeration Limited and may not be duplicated or disclosed to any third party without the written permission of an authorised officer of the company.