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Insight/ Online Media

How To Integrate Social Customer Service Into Your Marketing Strategy


by Joshua March

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Article Highlights:

  • Social media isn’t just about the content you publish; it’s also a way for your customers to reach out to you in a public forum.
  • Using service agents to respond to customers online is far cheaper than an outsourced marketing agency.
  • Switching to social customer service means allocating a new budget with different strategies and objectives.

You’re spending a significant part of your digital marketing budget on getting fans and followers; your TV spots link to your Facebook page, but what do people see when they get there? Unfortunately for most brands, what they see is you ignoring your customers.

Social media isn’t just about the content you publish; it’s also a way for your customers to reach out to you in a public forum. Furthermore, instead of emailing or calling, customers are increasingly turning to social media when they have a question or complaint. If someone has a real customer service issue, then only real customer service agents can help. It’s important to direct customers to the proper avenues to ensure their problems get solved.

Our research shows that 30 percent of all Facebook and Twitter messages directed at brands now get a response–an increase of 91 percent in the past 12 months. Not only are more people using social media to engage with brands, but an increasing percentage of those conversations are customer-service related. The 2012 American Express Customer Service Barometer found that 20 percent of people have used social media for customer service in the past year, and failure to provide help can result in uncontrollable negative publicity. If you have a million fans, but are failing to help the 200,000 of them who are using social as a customer-service channel, the reach of the people who publicly complain about the bad experience could be up to 10 million people. How‘s that for social ROI?

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Flip it on its head, and the survey showed that if you do deliver a great experience to the social complainers, they’ll gratefully share that experience as well. Multiply that positive sentiment across the 20 percent of your fan base currently using social to complain (an ever-increasing number), and 9 million people will see firsthand how committed you are to your customers. Now that’s real influencer marketing.

So What’s The Cost?
Amazingly, using social media correctly will save your business money. Using service agents to respond to customers online is far cheaper than an outsourced marketing agency–our customers have reported savings of 60 percent-plus by taking social into their contact center. Plus, if customers are looking for help and they don’t get it, Clickfox has found that half of them will end up calling your contact center, which can end up being three times more expensive to deal with than answering a question digitally.

There are other benefits to using social media for customer service as well. Trained agents can categorize and add sentiment data to social conversations as they work, giving you deep, actionable insight into what your customers want, with 90 percent-plus accuracy (compared to 60 to 70 percent for NLP based sentiment scoring).

How To Do It
The benefits of using social media for customer service are clear. However, it can still be difficult for a CMO to convince the operations division of his company to institute a significant change in infrastructure. Switching to social customer service means allocating a new budget with different strategies and objectives, the prospect of which can initially overwhelm the decision makers and cause them to dismiss the idea altogether. You need to build the case internally for why moving customer service over to social media is beneficial to the business as a whole.The brand benefits, combined with the lowering of cost and greater consumer insight, makes for a persuasive argument–but often one that eventually needs to be taken up to the CEO.

Once you have the resources, a social customer service team isn’t quite like any other in the contact center. They need to be trusted to represent the brand in public 1-on-1 conversations via social channels, which requires significant tact and skill. All of the insight that your marketing department has gained over the past few years about how to engage with customers–what tone of voice to use, social etiquette and norms, company policies–needs to be passed on to the new social customer service team. New processes need to be created to allow the social service team to work alongside your marketing and communications teams in case of potential crisis situations. The effort it takes to put a successful social customer service team in place may seem daunting at first, but the endeavor is well worth it.

An Integrated Social Marketing And Service Strategy
Social media is becoming the primary channel for communicating with your customers–and for your customers to communicate with you. With marketing and customer service thrust into the same public channels, a disjointed approach won’t continue to work. The social customer experience is truly multidisciplinary, and only by having service and marketing work together in tandem will you be able to deliver an amazing customer experience–one which social media has now made visible to the entire world.

Also by Joshua March: Marketers: Loosen Your Social Grip

About Joshua March

Joshua March is co-founder and CEO of Conversocial, a provider of integrated cocial CRM and marketing software for Facebook and Twitter. From 2008 to 2010, March was chairman of the Facebook Developer Garage London, an official Facebook event running monthly for developers, entrepreneurs, and marketers working on the Facebook platform. He resides in London.