Despite the growing trend of consumers desiring customer service and issue resolution in new digital channels, most companies have been slow to embrace the opportunity and implement the necessary changes within their own organizations. Social media has changed everything when it comes to supporting customers. 

Customer service hours are different from standard corporate hours. When you add social media to that mix, it creates an environment where customers want and expect support when they need it. You can call it adhoc support or customer service on demand. Whatever the name, the expectation is there, thanks to companies like Dell and Comcast, early pioneers in the area of experimenting with social media to help customers. 

Social customer service conflict:

There is a conflict, and several obstacles must be overcome. Although an organization might aspire to provide social service to customers, some companies don't have the internal resources to support it. According to research on social media and customer service conducted by SAP and Social Media

Today, more than 77% of companies currently invest less than $50,000 in social customer care. To put that number in context, consider that Fortune 100 companies spend hundreds of mil- lions, even billions, on customer service and support programs. As of 2013, there is still a considerable lack of resources being allocated to social media with the purpose of formally providing customer service and issue resolution. 

Another obstacle facing companies tackling social customer service is integration or lack thereof. The proliferation of channels is exacerbating the silo problem that companies have. Customers don't want or need another digital silo. Companies bear the burden of integrating social service channels into traditional channels to ensure that customers are interacting with them using a single, continuous communications channel.

For example, customers want to be able to start a conversation in one channel (such as Twitter) and have it seamlessly carry over to email or he brand website, without the need to start the conversation all over again. You've likely experienced this at one time or another, having been asked to provide your name, address, or account number redundantly after being transferred for the sixth time. This is a symptom of lack of integration. We revisit this topic in a case study later in the chapter. 

Related to integration, the third obstacle is inefficiency. Most social service programs are still in their infancy and thus immature. They struggle with meeting customer expectations for response times, providing appropriate coverage (responding to all inquiries), and finding appropriate answers. Research from the Social Customer Engagement Index says that 66% of companies providing social service are responding within four hours or less to customer inquiries. The reasons for efficiency issues tell the real story, however.

These are the top four reasons: 

  1. Finding the answer (41 %) 
  2. Waiting for guidance on how to answer (34%) 
  3. Finding the appropriate message to answer (27%) 
  4. The current tool does not make it easy to respond (7%) 

These issues indicate process, education, and training/policy issues within the company, not problems inherent in any social platform or technology. These specific issues have been addressed with traditional customer service channels such as call centers and live agents, and it's a matter of formally extending those more mature business processes into new channels and areas, such as social media and mobile technology.

Later in the chapter, we look at how some companies are doing that, but first, let's dig beyond the obvious answer to why you should support customers in social channels. We look at the three main areas of opportunity to utilize digital analytics to improve customer service. 


Beyond issue resolution, why should you support customers in digital and social channels? What’s in it for the company, other than just a new expense? The answers are simple but present an incredibly powerful opportunity to learn and then optimize the customer experience to improve brand loyalty. The result is a longer-term relationship with the customer. The following sections describe three ways you can do this.
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