Standing with empty paper cups in hand, we looked for a recycling bin. Much to our dismay, the grand coffee chain did not separate its trash. “Unbelievable!” we thought and approached the counter. “Nope, we don’t recycle. Can you believe it?” said the employee, agreeing with our protest. My friend turned around and shoved the cups in mixed trash and said, “I’ll Tweet about it!”
That is one frustrated, social media savvy customer who knows she will get the attention of the brand and many others who’ve gone through similar experience, if she posts a mere 140 characters online. Her expectations are not only high because she wants the coffee chain to be green, but also because she wants a solution through immediate and open dialogue.
This is the changing face of customer care in the age of social media. Monitoring online conversations and responding in near real time has become an essential step in maintaining brand health. The complexity of setting up branded social media customer care lines may seem like added cost to an already robust system that handles queries through phone, email and mail. Companies need to have a perspective on the business impact of their social care channels, before determining their role in the customer service chain.
Social media customer service channels can reduce churn, increase satisfaction and bring in new customers:
· Reduced churn: Solving customer problems and preventing customers from discontinuing a service helps maintain a steady customer base.
· Repeat sales: High customer satisfaction yields loyalty as renewed purchases.
· Cross-sell, up-sell opportunities: The solution to a customer problem may be a product bundle or an alternative service. Social care specialists can serve additional products/services to customers depending on need and tone of conversation.
· New customers through positive word of mouth: Resolved cases and happy customer hash tags fortify brand reputation and convince readers that they would be equally well treated if they were to purchase from the company.
Besides expecting benefits, companies also need to ask some hard questions to build social care channels that make business sense for their target audience:
1- Who are the social media savvy customers, seeking a dialogue online?
a. What is their history with the brand?
b. Do they tap into offline channels as well?
c. Among online sources, which social media platforms do they prefer?
2- What questions/issues typically make customers turn to social media channels?
a. What are main topics?
b. What is the volume for each key topic?
c. In what problem stages are these questions? Will they need extensive follow up online and/or offline?
3- What is the cost of assisting a customer through social media, considering staff and technology systems?
a. What are key skills for social care specialists? What kind of training will they need?
b. How many staff members are needed to assist in social media conversations?
c. What is the process in which social care specialists will monitor online buzz and respond to customers?
The opportunity in social care is in addressing customer needs through efficient systems that deliver value fast, at reduced cost to the company.