Social, Not Solo: Why Customer Care Must Rely Upon Multichannel Service

Customer Service
Customer Service
Though brands continue to integrate social media into their existing service infrastructure, this emerging channel must be part of an overarching support strategy that allows for channel preferences and privacy.

Social media has become another channel within the customer service space that consumers have come to expect. But, with social media, many brands are still in the experimentation phase, exploring each network for chances to cut costs and cultivate brand advocacy simultaneously. Yet, while the idea of transitioning customer support to the social realm may sound enticing for some, successful companies currently treat social media as an extension of their multichannel service efforts.

"Customer expectations have shifted and so have their desires to interact with companies whenever and however they want," says Gah Bird, vice president of customer experience innovation at TELUS International. "As the popularity of social networks increases so will the importance of offering customer service via these channels. However, social care will not be offered as the only customer service channel. Customers like having choices, so having a multichannel strategy is often the best option-giving people the chance to pick up the phone, have a private online chat, or liaise with a customer service agent via social media."

Most companies understand that they must integrate social customer care in order to remain relevant and provide the best service and support possible. But, while this channel may continue to grow as an avenue for support, the idea of transitioning all service interactions to social becomes extreme and potentially fatal, for they would risk:

  • Abandoning consumers who seek the element of privacy during their support interactions.
  • Alienating customers who don't use social media regularly and are unfamiliar with the platforms.
  • Erasing the opportunity for consumers to contact the brand via their channel of choice.

Instead, organizations must work to cultivate their social service offerings by building trust and developing transparency so customers feel they are receiving consistent care no matter which channels they frequent.

"Companies need to ensure they have the right people handling social service and the right structure to support them," says Matt McConnell, CEO at Intradiem. "These agents need to be able to write concisely in addition to possessing empathy and problem-solving skills. Social requires its own service levels that are in alignment with overall customer experience strategies. Having the right agent in the right place at the right time becomes even more critical."

Companies understand that, in an increasingly competitive market, customer experience stands as the most powerful differentiator. Limiting the types of contact channels would be brand suicide. Organizations must look to grow their multichannel efforts, using each platform as a way to support all areas of the business. From social media and email, to phone and live chat, the old continues to blend with the new, allowing customers of all ages and preferences to connect as they see fit, thus strengthening relationships every step of the way.

Embracing Social to Support Service, Sales, and Marketing

Since 2004, the Jetstar Group has worked to build its network of value-based airlines and establish its reputation for affordable travel across Australia, New Zealand, and Asia Pacific. Each extension of the group offers consistently low airfare to facilitate more travel to more places more frequently, making it the largest low cost carrier in the region. However, with more than 7,000 multilingual employees and 23 million customers, Jetstar Group discovered the need to expand its reach into the social sphere in order to extend its sales and service offerings. The brand sought to use social media to enhance its existing marketing, customer service, human resources, and corporate communications operations.

In response, Jetstar Group adopted HootSuite's enterprise social business solutions to manage the high-volume customer engagement across channels. Specifically, Jetstar group aimed to protect its online reputation, empower employees, build brand awareness, and develop ongoing dialogues. Jetstar Group integrated social media to not only boost customer service, but to aid sales and marketing, turning this emerging channel into the thread that ties every department together so the company may provide a cohesive brand experience that fosters loyalty and satisfaction. By setting up different Twitter lists, in particular, Jetstar can monitor and engage with customers and conversations based on specific keywords and search terms, ensuring that social customer service messages don't go overlooked. Social media allows both Jetstar and its customers to share their own stories and listen to one another in an open forum to further relationships and strategies.

Incorporating Social Service Where Customers Need It Most

While Threadless may be known for its creative t-shirt selection, the name has also become synonymous with community. Based upon an innovative crowdsourcing model, Threadless allows designers to submit their work so fans may vote for their favorite prints. But, as this social business model began to grow, the company recognized the need to expand its customer service offerings to accommodate its more than 200,000 Facebook fans. Ultimately, the brand wanted to establish a strategy that would allow the support team to properly assign and track issues to resolution. With an average of 2,000 support tickets processed each day, most dealing with order concerns and design submissions, Threadless needed to implement a solution that would move beyond the limitations of email and respond to social inquiries.

By partnering with Parature, Threadless can now tie service issues posted or submitted via Facebook to one single portal that tracks and reports all customer support tickets coming into the organization, including those submitted via email or the company website. The issues are then routed by language (English or Spanish) and type (customer or designer). This strategy allows one representative to handle a given ticket from creation to resolutions, thereby establishing consistency and cultivating relationships. Providing efficient tools also empowers the support team to bring greater satisfaction to the brand's customer and designer base. By bringing social into the fold, Threadless can now engage and converse with its fans efficiently and effectively across channels, creating a seamless, multichannel experience that will inevitably inform and impact future changes and improvements.