3 Steps to Grow Your Social Media Service

Here are three ways that companies can begin the road to social-first customer service.
Customer Service

Social media is transforming the contact center. For leading companies it now represents 10 percent of all inbound volume-a number that is growing rapidly. It is quickly emerging as the most powerful medium for delivering authentic, human service to mobile, social consumers - who have expectations to match.

As customers strive for an engaging and quick resolution, it becomes imperative to position contact centers as service organizations that meet customers when they want, in the medium they prefer. This is the year in which social customer service grows up, and with 65 percent of social media users preferring this channel to traditional contact centers, companies that do not adapt will fall behind.The modern contact center must continue to be a highly evolved operation, but with less automation and more human engagement. Recent IDC research expects spending on hosted contact center services to reach $2 billion by 2018, nearly doubling spending in 2013.

As social customer service redefines the relationship between customers and companies, many questions still remain. The biggest question: How do you prepare your business for the new social customer service model?

Learning to handle social interactions effectively is critical. Social media demands that contact center agents proactively approach customers at their first point of contact rather than wait for customers to come to them. It also allows for human interaction in a normally automated and robotic space. The public and interactive nature of social media allows conversations to be had, with real feedback and real resolutions and engagement from a company and its customers. When an agent succeeds, customers can publicly show their gratitude, enhancing a company's reputation, online and off. Failure, on the other hand, can snowball and escalate on itself (search 'customer service fail' in your search engine of choice for the downside to social interactions).

Below are three ways that companies can begin the road to social first customer service:

1- Integrate social customer service into your contact center

While we saw signs of social media moving into the contact center in 2014, with companies acknowledging the importance of having social savvy contact centers, this year represents an even stronger movement in this direction. Therefore, integrating with popular systems to exchange information in a multi-channel support environment is essential for any forward thinking business. Focus on case management, CRM and contact center 'stacks' as a starting point.

2- Create a single view of your social customer

For years, online identification mechanisms were not only completely separate from real identity, but unconnected to each other. This caused many companies to struggle to obtain a 'single view' of the customer. Building a social identity has the potential to tie all of these details together. If you can tie the data together-not just between customer service channels, but at all points your business touches a customer-it gives the ability to deliver instant, completely personalized service. Consumers expect a joined up, seamless interaction, whatever channel they are on-a key consideration for brands within the next year.

3- Staff and train your social customer service team accordingly

How exactly should a company should manage social customer service? It is not like an email or chat-- its public nature means that a mistake can have huge ramifications for a company. Social media combines real-time expectations with asynchronous workflow and a user base expecting a speedy response. All this together creates a recipe for disaster when using "blended agents," who handle public and private channels with the same tools at the same time. The training and processes for agents need to be very different from traditional customer service. A clear focus on agent training, built in conjunction with public facing teams like marketing and PR, will help eradicate this as a potential problem area.

This is the year that social media becomes an integral part of the customer experience and companies must fully embrace social media if they hope to engage their customers in a way that not only protects, but also promotes their brands. However, social media has redefined the relationship between customers and companies. Service is no longer something you control and offer on your terms; social media has upended the order, forcing companies to offer service when and where the customer wants, or face a public backlash. This requires contact centers to redefine their purposes and strategies. Companies can turn their chaotic, past paced Twitter feed into an efficient platform for positive service and engagement, but only by fully embracing social media as a unique, but primary service channel.