The State of Social Customer Support in 2018

by Susan Preiss in Social Media Customer Support, Susan Preiss

Remember when social media was the young upstart of the customer care channels and voice was still king? Way back in the good old days of the early 2010s…  It seems like a lifetime ago that we were asking ourselves how to handle customers in such a public forum. And asking who really owned the channel anyway – was it marketing? Or was it customer service? We’ve come a long way since then with social having earned its rightful place in the channel choice of both customers and contact center service providers. In our humble opinion though, it’s a good idea to check in every now and again to examine the state of social customer support and dig into the trends and opportunities that have the potential to improve customer care in 2018 and beyond.

TL;DR: If you can answer social as fast as you answer the phone, and take care of your customer’s issue quickly and effectively in the first contact – you’re going to be in great shape.

Expectations for Social Customer Support Are Maturing

Even though social media doesn’t handle the lion’s share of support interactions, customers still demand a lot from it. At least 84% of your customers expect a response within a day and 47% expect it within an hour (is patience still a virtue?). Because many social customer care interactions happen for all to see, customer service on social media needs to follow best practices from the start. Accountability and transparency, two traits highly valued by your customers, need to be front-of-mind.

In fact, 75% believe that the social channel gives consumers power, as they can speak straight to brands with confidence that they’ll be heard. Companies that take that message to heart, responding quickly and effectively when customers shine the spotlight on them, will maintain higher numbers of Promoters.

Bots Will Handle Simple Social Questions

Customer interactions are growing more complex. In fact, Deloitte predicts that omni-channel customer interactions are going to increase in complexity this year.  Greater complexity means allocating more agent time and resources to resolving complicated issues. That means we can expect that contact center agents will spend more time investigating these complex problems and reasoning their way towards solutions. The good news is: AI is already transforming the way customers can resolve the easy interactions without the help of a live agent.

The goal for at least 56% of multimedia and technology companies is to integrate AI and customer service into their contact centers.  How will AI translate into the social channel? There has been some experimentation to implement AI tools with social media analytics and unstructured data (text responses, images, etc.). The early results are promising but there is definitely a ways to go.

What’s most interesting is that, when dealing with the “low hanging fruit” – automation and self-serve becomes a win-win interaction. At least 66% of consumers feel good about both a brand and themselves when they solve those quick questions and problems without needing to talk with an agent. Sophisticated self-service generates brand loyalty through the most cost-effective means available and leaves your contact center agents to focus their attention on the more involved, higher value, or higher risk interactions.

Interactions Needs a Personal Touch

With the growth of social customer support and the greater sophistication of social interactions, canned responses will increasingly miss the mark. As many as 59% of customers rank personalization of interactions as being a medium or higher priority. People want their customer experiences to feel organic. No script or “Standard Operating Procedure won’t let me.” Just approachable responses that feel like the contact center agent is paying attention to the tone of the conversation and is offering a flexible solution that befits the situation.

Easier said than done.

The challenge is translating your brand voice from marketing into the voice of customer care. Doing that successfully begins with developing the right agent profile in terms of soft skills (we look for solid decision-making chops, natural aptitude for making tough judgment calls, great flair for writing in a manner appropriate to the channel, and often a sense of humor,) hard skills (tech aptitude for the tools and an ability to learn new tools quickly – this space is changing fast and changing often. How many Snapchat updates have we had this month?).

With the profile in place, training for the social channel takes priority. Your training team (or your outsourcers training team) are going to be challenged with developing a curriculum that is never going to stay static for long. In today’s social environment, that “move fast or get left behind”, mob mentality means you have to be constantly vigilant in ensuring agents are up to speed, not only on process changes, tool upgrades, and the like, but that they are also current on evolution of language, hashtags, and trends that are unique to the channel.

And finally, you need 2020 metrics – not 2016 metrics. What does that mean? It means making sure your QA tools reflect the nature of interactions that your agents are being faced with today – more complex interactions in the channel, longer handle time, shorter average speed of answer, first tweet resolution. Yes, those sound like traditional voice channel metrics. But today, if you can answer social as fast as you answer the phone, and take care of your customer’s issue quickly and effectively in the first contact – whether that’s an Instagram comment, a Yelp review, a Facebook post, or yes, a Tweet, you’re going to be in great shape.

We know that getting the right balance from your social customer support is no small feat. Instead of building your own program from scratch, you can provide exceptional customer experiences from an outsourced team of experts. Isn’t it time that your social media represented the best of your brand? Click here for our Pricing Request Form.

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