How To Serve The Omni-Present Customers In The Digital Age

Prioritizing social channels, defining SLAs, proper workflow are some of the few guidelines for brands to handle customer service effectively, writes Deep Sherchan, CMO at Simplify360


Editor’s Note: Deep Sherchan, guest editor at LI for the month of April writes about how call centers are evolving in social media age and how they can adapt to Social CRM. You can follow Deep on Twitter – @bexdeep (Click here to follow his articles)

A day doesn’t go by without a brand being bashed on Twitter or Facebook. Everyday there is one or more articles written about how brands can improve customer experience through proactive engagement on social media. The so-called social media experts would not hesitate to provide a quirky remark about how so-and-so brand could have handled the case more effectively. Brands are even mocked for their irrelevant responses on social media and taken on a ride for a troll day. Of-course! Why not have a fun day on some body else’s mistakes or ignorance.

However, I am more sympathetic towards the brand than with customers because the task of improving customer experience is not as simple as responding to a tweet or a comment, its more than that. The burgeoning use of social media platforms, for sharing grievances has created massive overhead for customer experience managers or customer support teams.

Currently in India, if you look around on Twitter you will notice every other brand trying to actively respond to complaints, queries and feedback from customers. I won’t be surprised to find out that these brands have virtually no idea about the best practices or if they have even implemented a proper technology and resource for the job. Every one is simply jumping on the bandwagon for being responsive, not to mention that Facebook is fueling it by introducing a new metric on their page that measures the responsiveness of the brand. You can imagine a brand manager staring down at the responsiveness of their page and their competitors and drilling down their agencies on improving them, but no one has any idea. Such is the case today, where any new metric or feature introduced by Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp or Instagram becomes the bullet point of New Strategy.

In order to improve customer experience brands first need to define their social media policy and communicate that with their customers. Setting the right expectations across the customers is the first step in improving the customer experience. If a customer complains on Instagram or Pinterest, do you as a brand respond to them? How do you decide if you should or not? If you want to respond what should be your minimum first level response time? How will you follow up with the case? These are some of the important questions that you need to answer before you start responding to your customer. If you act without any plan and process, you would only end up creating false expectations, which can quickly turn into a disaster.

So here are a few guidelines for handling customer service effectively:

Prioritize your channel (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, chats, emails, phone)

Not all channels are important from a customer support point of view. For example YouTube is very popular but it is not a platform where customers would go and raise a complaint or expect to be attended. Do a quick search around various social media channels and access the importance of each platform for customer support. This is important for latter stages where you would be choosing a technology or planning your resources.

Estimate the volume of cases you would get for each platform on a day-to-day basis

Once you have your platforms ready, carry out a proper listening exercise to understand the highs and lows of your volume. This will help you understand peak hours and enable you to allocate your resources accordingly. For example, if you are not receiving any complaints at night, it makes no sense to say you provide 24/7 support – be smart about it.

Design an SLA for each of the platform

It is cool to have speedy responses to all the customer complaints, but this will not help you design an efficient system. System design is always about proper emphasis on priorities and intelligent resourcing. Hence, each platform can be given different SLAs, for example a customer complaining on Instagram might not expect immediate response, compared to the customers on Twitter or Facebook. This is true because each customer segment visualizes different platforms based on their own priorities and the amount of time they spend on these platforms. For instance, if you have raised a complaint against a telecom brand, would you go to their Twitter handle or their Instagram account? Hence, have separate SLA for each platform like 0-5 minutes for Twitter, 0-10 minutes for Facebook, 0- 60 minutes for Instagram etc.

Develop a workflow around these requirements

Working without a workflow is like writing a story without a plot and characters. A defined workflow enables a proper flow of tasks within various stakeholders in the project and allows better assignment of responsibilities. This is crucial for reporting purpose and optimization of the process in future. How a case gets created, assigned and eventually closed is an important part of customer service, which needs to be implemented for all the channels.

Define proper metrics to measure the operation’s efficiency

This is the final stage of planning where you need to put down proper metrics, based on which you will be measuring the success of your process. When you design this metric try to be as independent as possible, from the standard metrics provided by Twitter or Facebook. This is an important thing to understand by every brand – social platforms are infamous for changing their algorithms overnight and your entire effort goes for a toss. Hence, derive your own metrics, which you have control over and understand them thoroughly. For instance, brands that spent millions on improving their Google page ranks, Facebook likes, Twitter Followers/List counts etc. have seen their investment fail because these metrics are no longer relevant.

Once you have gone through these steps, the final question is how to execute them into actions. The answer lies in proper selection of technology and human resources. Let’s discuss a little about both of them in brief:

Getting your Technology Right

In order to carry out Omni-channel customer service, you need to have a platform that can help you aggregate conversations from across social media channels, chats, phone-calls and intelligently segregate them. The platform should have the capability to respond to customers on various platforms, create unique ticket ids or push them into traditional ticket management platforms, ability to view customer’s history, access customer’s account status from CRM tools etc. Selecting a technology is a daunting task, especially when you have to choose among many platforms. Remember that the technology is always limited by restrictions from social media platforms’ data policy, which doesn’t allow sourcing of their data to third party tools.

Therefore, it is important first to have your requirement sketched out, before you go out shopping for the technology.

Have the right team in place

The second important aspect is the quality of team, which you will hire for the job. More than often, we hear customers complaining about rude behavior from customer service agents. Agents might be the bottom elements of your entire customer experience process, but they are the first ones to face the customers and interact with them. Hence, they should have strong aptitude to communicate and understand the business. By the way, having interns or fresh pass outs managing your Facebook page or Twitter is not the ideal way of doing it – Trust me!

Customer experience needs to be a well thought out program within your organization and not just a short field trip. It needs to tie up with the long term agenda of the organization. Even if you choose to have zero support on social media, it is all good if you’re providing strong customer experience via other ways. Remember that customer satisfaction is connected not with your customer support, but with the quality of your product and service experience. If those are not taken care of no matter how fast you respond on Twitter, you are still going to score low on customer satisfaction.