Social customers – who should manage them?
It is fair to say that social media took many organisations by surprise. Suddenly their customers wanted to communicate and engage with them through the likes of Facebook and Twitter, as well as via more traditional channels.
The social media journey has therefore seen companies go through a series of stages. Initially (often unofficially) individuals took on the role of being the company representative on networks, just because they happened to be there. Stories of airline pilots tweeting about the best side of the plane to sit to get a good view or CEOs dealing with customer complaints demonstrate the power of social media, but are inherently unscalable. Therefore as interest grew, social media became more formalised, often falling under marketing’s umbrella, as it saw the potential for communicating with audiences and engaging with customers. Recent figures from Gartner, released alongside its Social for CRM Vendor Guide, found that marketing controls social strategy in 41% of enterprises.
But as the volume and range of social media interactions has escalated, it has moved beyond marketing’s capabilities and systems alone. Marketing has done great things in identifying and engaging with customers in outbound conversations, but social media is changing and becoming central to all of business. As Michael Maoz of Gartner puts it, “you move beyond the ‘dating phase’ and sort of settle into a relationship." Customers that raise a query or complaint on social media want it to be integrated into their overall journey, rather than needing to repeat themselves when they make contact through channels such as email or telephone. They demand consistency however they make contact.
Essentially standalone, silo-based social media is no longer enough – you have to have the systems in place to capture interactions, analyse them, provide a solution, and then add it to overall customer records. And social media isn’t always the best channel to provide a complete solution, due to its public nature and space constraints. I’ve heard from Eptica retail customers that say nearly a third (30%) of incoming queries that start on social media escalate to the email channel to ensure they are resolved. In regulated industries such as finance or health I’m sure this figure is much higher.
This is where the processes, knowledge and skills of customer service teams fit extremely well. Yet, this department is responsible for social media in just 7% of organisations (even less than IT), according to Gartner. Visionary companies are realising that social media is too big a part of their business to leave to a single department. It covers a wide range of areas, from PR and marketing to sales and customer service.
What is needed is a holistic approach that brings together skills from across the organisation in a partnership approach. Gartner talks about the need to transform contact centres into customer engagement centres, equipped with the processes both to interact with consumers in an integrated way across every channel, but also to work closely with other departments to deliver deep and lasting engagement. With social media central to the success of more and more businesses, now is the time to move to the next stage of social customer service, a joined-up, company-wide, approach that centres on the customer and their needs.