Do you know that companies are literally losing billions of dollars each year by pissing off their customers? Or that it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one?
It always amazes me why companies would rather focus on acquiring new customers through social media than care for existing ones.
Fortunately, that looks set to change, at least according to this survey by Adobe and EConsultancy. From their survey of 6,000 marketers across the world last year, it appeared that customer experience management is the most important priority for digital marketers.
That’s not all. A more recent survey by Gartner showed that a whopping 89% of companies expect customer experience to be their main differentiator come 2017. Wow!
How then can companies delight their customers through a blend of face-to-face and Facebook encounters? What strategies can they adopt to foster greater customer loyalty and advocacy?
Introducing Social Customer Care
One of the chief challenges faced by companies in serving their customers is rising manpower costs. With wages heading upwards, employing warm bodies to answer phone calls or handle complaints at customer service counters will grow increasingly difficult.
This is further exacerbated by the rising expectations of today’s social customer. Empowered by the ubiquitous social networks like Facebook and Twitter, they will not hesitate to make their unhappiness known.
Enter social customer care.
Also known as social customer service or social care, social customer care involves using social technologies and channels to better serve customers before, during and after a purchase. Often, such strategies are paired with social Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
Social customer care involves using social technologies and channels to better serve customers before, during and after a purchase.
Through social customer care, companies make use of their presence on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and industry forums (eg Trip Advisor for travel and Hungry Go Where for food) to manage customer feedback, complaints and requests. Such strategies need to work hand-in-hand with offline customer strategies as part of a holistic customer delight strategy.
Benefits of Social Customer Care
According to Dan Gingiss in a podcast by Social Media Examiner, customers whom you interact with on a one-to-one basis on social media tend to be more loyal to your business. In his own words:
“Loyal customers spend more with you, stay with you longer and tell their friends about you.” – Dan Gingiss
In fact, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.
Social customer care is also cheaper to manage. On average, social customer care costs around $1 per interaction while phone support costs at least $6.
With all its benefits, it looks like social customer care is set to grow. Gartner predicted that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships with enterprise without interacting with a human.
Thus, if you haven’t already got a social customer care system in place, its high time you start looking at it.
5 Steps to Consider
How do you put in place a social customer care framework? Here are some steps to consider.
#1 Map and Anticipate Your Customer Journey
First, you need to understand how your customer interacts with your company. Consider his or her complete journey and how it relates to your company. Pay special attention to online and social media channels.
Quoting from my earlier article, there are three dimensions to consider here:
- Customer Journey: A thorough understanding of the journey that your customers take with your company, during the stages of awareness, consideration, trial, purchase, and post-purchase.
- Touch Points: All the various points of interaction — products, web sites, social channels, advertising, call centres, and others — that support the customer through their journey.
- Ecosystems: This relates to the integrated ecosystems of products, software and services that may open up new possibilities for customer journeys and experiences in ways that more isolated touch points cannot. This is especially important online, where industry-based forums and review websites provide invaluable insights on customer experiences.
Once you have got your customer pathways determined, you can wow them with anticipatory service.
#2 Design Social Friendly Customer Service Rules
The next step involves designing social media friendly customer service policies and processes.
In an article in Forbes, Ekaterina Walter proposes four essential rules in social customer care to consider:
- Know your happy and unhappy customers through social monitoring dashboards.
- Communicate well through social media. Training on the right way to engage is a must here.
- Streamline and personalise your engagement using social CRM technology (more on this later).
- Evaluate and optimize in real time.
Beyond these rules, it is useful to organise your business to ensure that both the human and business side of customer service are taken care of. This involves managing customer transactions, sales queries, and problems across all touch points.
Most importantly, ensure that whatever policies you have put in place are quick and responsive. According to Ovum…
66% of consumers expect a response on social media within an hour. 56% of consumers want a response within 30 minutes
#3 Deploy Social CRM Systems
Once you have got your systems and processes in place, consider investing in social CRM systems which improves staff productivity.
According to Adam Metz in The Social Customer, social CRM systems must integrate the different workflows involved in processes like sales, marketing, customer service, logistics and fulfillment. They should also cover the 5 Ms in social customer insights:
- Management; and
This can be visualised by the diagram below (courtesy of The Social Concept).
#4 Aim for Zero Defect Fuss Free Service
Providing premium social customer care isn’t just about delighting your customers with unexpected gifts. It is also about ensuring that your customer order processes are easy, and that your systems work dependably and predictably. This is especially important for web-based businesses.
Consider the following tactics:
- Ensure that your order fulfillment system is smooth, intuitive and easy to understand. Test, and re-test beta versions of your ordering process with focus groups to iron out the kinks way before they are rolled out.
- Check that there are no broken links or outdated information on your website.
- Keep a handy list of customer FAQs online, and ensure that your information is well laid out to avoid ambiguities.
- If manpower is a major issue, consider adopting a “No Service” approach in serving your customers.
- Make it easy for your customers to find you online. Have a button or box at the right column which they can activate anytime to chat or email a customer service agent.
#5 Be Proactive in Responding and Reaching Out
Last, but certainly not least, you need to be proactive in reaching out to both happy and disgruntled customers online.
This may involve leaving the comfort of your own “home base” on your website, Facebook page or Twitter account, and venturing out.
Not convinced? Hear what this expert has to say.
The rise of the citizen review site is a sobering development. No longer are you on top of the mountain, blasting your marketing message down to the masses through your megaphone. All of a sudden, the masses are conversing with one another. If your service or product isn’t any good, they’ll out you.”– David Pogue, Scientific American, 2011
To address customer complaints or requests on other people’s cyber turf, adopt the following steps:
- Invest in a good social monitoring and listening tool. This can be incorporated as part of your social CRM system.
- Train and empower your social media “commando” team in the right way to engage or respond.
- Learn to differentiate between trolls, haters and critics, and engage with them accordingly.
- Reach out to customers in need and extend your help above and beyond what your company provides.
Remember that being helpful on social media can make all the difference in your business. Quoting social media guru Jay Baer…
“Sell something, and you make a customer. Help someone, and you make a customer for life.” – Jay Baer
Are there other ways to build a rock solid social customer care strategy? I’d love to receive your ideas.