Social media is still an immature customer service channel.
That's apparent when reading the latest Customer Experience Benchmark report from Execs In The Know and COPC, Inc. This report is the 2015 Corporate Edition and was published in 2016.
Six years ago, I did my own tiny social media study. That's back when the Starbucks Twitter profile said that some guy named Brad did the tweeting. Things are pretty much the same as even back then. (Except for Brad. I'm not sure what happened to him.)
In this year's report, I did see a glimmer of hope that more companies are starting to catch on. Social media customer service is still far from maturity, but it might be entering it's adolescent years.
Below are three of the more interesting trends revealed in the report. You can also purchase the full report from Execs In The Know. It's full of intriguing insights on social media plus more traditional channels (phone, email, etc.) and emerging channels like self-service and chat.
Trend #1: Ownership
More customer service teams are getting involved, and they're getting more resources to do it. It still isn't great. Here's the breakdown of who owns the social media function:
Customer service has sole or joint ownership of social media in 54 percent of companies surveyed. That's up from 50 percent last year.
The percentage of companies that give their social media agents training is also up, though not quite as high as it was in 2013.
What the heck are companies doing that aren't training their employees?! I can just see those managers now.
"Hey Kayla. You're a millennial, right?! Don't all you millennials get social media and stuff? Well, you're in charge now."
The other good news is that 60 percent of companies surveyed expected their budget to increase. Only 27 percent of companies surveyed last year planned to increase their budget.
Trend #2: New Channels
Twitter and Facebook remain the big dogs when it comes to social media customer service.
There are other sites like Pintrest, Instagram, and LinkedIn that have millions of users but haven't really caught on for customer service.
However, there are a few alternative social media channels that are increasing. The chart below compares each channel's share of social media engagements in 2015 vs 2014.
Here, it's helpful to remind ourselves what constitutes social media. This is the definition from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
forms of electronic communication (as Web sites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (as videos)
What types of sites are in these three growing categories?
- Forums include online support communities like this Apple site.
- Review site examples include Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google My Business.
- Blogs posts can engage customers too, like this sample post from Alaska Airlines.
So, the real trick for companies is figuring out where their customers are trying to interact with them and then establishing a service presence in those channels.
Trend #3: Maturity Is Still Low
If something stays the same, does that constitute a trend?
I'm going to say yes. It's important to acknowledge that many companies are struggling to serve their customers via social media.
Just 20 percent of survey respondents felt their social media customer service was mature or very mature.
This is going to pose a problem for two reasons. First, social media volume is increasing. The survey found that social media volume increased in 77 percent of companies.
Second, companies are struggling to keep up with this volume. I examined this 2015 multichannel study from Eptica to learn about social media response rates.
Here's how the top 500 U.S. retailers fared via Twitter, Facebook, and email:
Yikes! Do these brands hate their customers?
Seriously, brands. I say this with sincerity and affection: If you aren't going to respond to your customers on social media (or email?!) then shut down your account.
It's social + media. Not media. Sheesh.
Here, I suspect companies are lying to themselves. They think they are awesome when they're not. (I recently wrote about overconfidence causing service failures.)
There are three data points that support this assertion.
First, the Customer Experience Benchmark found that improving the quality of care was a top priority for contact centers for the second year in a row.
Second, the report also found that 79 percent of companies think they're meeting the needs of their customers, but only 33 percent of customers surveyed agree.
Finally, there's Gartner's famous stat that 89 percent of companies expect customer experience to be their primary basis for competition in 2016.
It's hard to believe we're entering a new age of customer service awesome if companies aren't even responding to basic inquiries. Maybe that's why retail customer satisfaction continues to drop.
One Last Trend
There's one last trend that I think explains a lot.
Take a look at Domo's 2015 Social CEO Report. They looked at Fortune 500 CEOs to see which ones had a presence on social media.
Their sad finding is 61 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence on social media. It's hard to believe that social media will get the attention it deserves if CEOs don't understand it.