Industry News

How social media has transformed customer care

Three years ago a gathering of customer service professionals proved to be a dour affair, as these well-meaning folks grappled with the onslaught of social media. Back then, social was an irritant: a brightly costumed character that many hoped would just go away with a bite-sized homage. Fast forward to the recent Incite Customer Service Summit and you'd see, like I did, a transformation not unlike Clark Kent’s transformation to Superman. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, read on.

Sizing up
After a social media crises rocked brands like Comcast and Domino’s several years ago, it is now hard to find an F1000 company that doesn't take customer service via social channels seriously. In fact, many brands have staffed up in this area. Comcast’s Jared Schultheis reported that his Digital Care team is up to 85 staffers, and many more are expected to join the team in the next 12 months. These employees aren't former interns either ― many come straight from the call center and are trained to handle technical issues on the spot.

Servicing within the channel
With larger and better-trained staffs, enlightened brands are now trying to deal with service issues in channel instead of shifting these conversations elsewhere. Even tech firms like Google and Microsoft report the ability to resolve often complicated technical issues via character-restricted channels like Twitter. This seismic shift has resulted in the faster resolution of problems, generally happier customers and higher employee satisfaction given customer service reps can see the benefit of their efforts in real time.

Merging social into customer care
Increasingly, brands are recognizing that consumers don’t distinguish between social and more traditional service channels, and therefore, neither should they. At minimum, social teams, who are often the first to hear about issues, are sharing them with their contact center brethren and product teams in real time using sophisticated software like Lithium. The result for the brand is a more unified approach and, in some cases, a merging of the two silos. The result for the customer is a far more seamless experience.

Listening and acting
The use of sophisticated listening software is hardly new among large brands. What is new is their ability to sort through all of the noise, identify product improvement opportunities and then persuade the organization to make requested changes. Nadia Lee, Google's social engagement program manager, reported that her team had identified and corrected 50 bugs in their AdWords product via social feedback. In 30 such cases, a Google staffer followed up with the customer who had identified the issue in the first place, yielding a delighted resolution.

Preempting customer service issues
When asked if his team had proactively impacted product development, Microsoft’s Nabil Pike, lead program manager, Consumer Support Experience, shared a story about working with the Windows 10 development team to include a troubleshooting tool for Internet access. This request was based on the high volume of customer service issues related to this topic that his team had dealt with previously. As a result of the tool, the number of Internet access related issues declined significantly with the Windows 10 launch.

Driving new product development
Hershey’s Kevin Mack, Head of Social Media and Consumer Insights, showed exactly how far things have come in the world of social listening. Mack’s team noticed via social chatter that customers were interested in ever-larger Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and took this insight to the product development team. Hershey, in turn, tested the waters with a half-pound peanut butter cup that was offered on a seasonal basis. Hearing the desire for even larger ones, Hershey then rolled out a pound-sized peanut butter cup that sold out on its website and shortly thereafter went into national distribution.

Becoming a super power
At the end of this glittering rainbow of customer centricity is a new and powerful force within organizations. Armed with real-time customer feedback, these frontline brand representatives are no longer relegated to the back office; in fact, some now get a seat in the boardroom and are lead by their Chief Customer Officer. Able to fly over tall challenges with a single tweet, and armed with x-ray vision into customer needs and passions, these one-time Clark Kents are fast becoming the supermen and superwomen of their organizations.

Drew Neisser is the CEO of Renegade and the author of the soon-to-be-released book The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing, which features interviews with 64 marketing luminaries. Social Customer Service is one “element” covered in the book, as is the critical importance of building a customer-centric culture.