Three Social Customer Care Trends You Need to Know

Social customer care should be entering an age of maturity.

The dominant social media channels have been around for awhile. Facebook is more than ten years old. Twitter is now nine. 

In reality, best practices are still evolving.

Here are three trends from the 2014 Customer Experience Management Benchmark (CEMB) study that’s co-produced by Executives in the Know and Digital Roots. These trends all seem to indicate that companies are still trying to find their way.

Trend #1: Channel Priorities

You can tell a lot about a company’s social media priorities by who owns it.

The CEMB revealed that customer care is an owner or co-owner of social media channels in only 50 percent of companies.

Why is this happening?

One explanation could be that corporate CEOs still don’t understand social media. A 2014 Domo study revealed that 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence on social media.

Another explanation is an apparent lack of social media adoption by customer care representatives themselves.

The Twitter backchannel was a virtual ghost town at ICMI’s 2015 Contact Center Expo & Conference. Only a few highly active participants regularly chimed in. 

Likewise, when I conducted an informal poll in my conference sessions, less than 10 percent acknowledged they were Twitter users.

We can't win the social customer care game until we're actually playing the game.


Trend #2: Wavering Commitment

Many companies are experiencing a commitment problem when it comes to social customer care. They're just not as invested in social like they are in other channels.

According to the CEMB, the growth of social media customer care has slowed.

And, fewer companies are training their social media agents.

Even worse, many companies are almost completely ignoring social media as a customer care channel.

Here are two stats that really jump out:

  • Only 14% of companies measure CSAT via social (Source: CEMB)
  • The Top 100 brands ignore 78% of Tweets (Source: Freshdesk)

Brands would love us all to have social media conversations about how great they are. They encourage us to share our positive thoughts using their carefully selected hashtags. 

But, they can't have it both ways. If they want us to engage with them, they'd better engage with us.


Trend #3: Strong Alternatives

Other customer care channels are a much higher priority than social.

The CEMB report revealed that social media is the preferred customer care channel for only 9 percent of customers.

Phone is still the top channel. According to ICMI Senior Analyst Justin Robbins, self-service is the fastest growing channel.

My own 2014 study of customer care via Twitter revealed that most customers view Twitter as a secondary channel, not a primary one. They only take to Twitter when another channel has failed them.

Another Twitter study I did earlier this year suggested that the impact of an upset customer ranting online may be overestimated. Or, viewed another way, a customer who receives poor service via any other channel is just as dangerous.


What’s Next?

Sadly, I could easily cut and paste the conclusion from a similar post I wrote a year ago.

It’s about time more companies figure it out. Key areas for improvement include:

  • Faster response times
  • Fewer ignored questions
  • Consistent service quality across all channels

The few companies that get it right can really stand out from the rest that don’t.

There are a few additions, too:

  • Customer care teams must gain a seat at the table.
  • Customer care professionals must personally engage with social.
  • Organizations must provide their agents with adequate training.

Perhaps most importantly, organizations must strive for consistency across all channels. A service failure can be just as damaging over the phone, in person, or via social media.

Five Customer Service Trends Worth Watching

Yesterday, I facilitated a webinar called Customer Service Trends to Watch in 2015. Here’s a re-cap along with links to additional information.

You can watch a replay of the webinar here.

Trend #1: Fixing Broken Systems

Most service failures are caused by broken systems.

It might be a rotten culture, an unfriendly policy, or an underperforming department. These issues go beyond a simple employee error. They can’t be fixed with training. They’re systemic.

The now infamous Comcast cancellation call is a terrific example.

In 2015, I predict we’ll see more companies getting serious about fixing broken systems and making it easy for their employees to provide outstanding service.


Trend #2: Preventing Service Failures

Matt Dixon was a keynote speaker at ICMI’s CC Expo conference last May. One of his slides really caught everyone’s attention:

Delighting customers is fine, but service failures are what really impacts loyalty.

This isn’t a new idea. Dixon co-authored a 2010 Harvard Business Review article called “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.” And, he released a book on the subject called The Effortless Experience in 2013.

So, why is this a trend now?

Because companies are starting to realize how badly service failures are costing them. Not just in terms of lost customers and lost business, but in terms of wasted time, increased costs, and lots of unnecessary damage control. 

I expect to see a few more companies get serious about service failure prevention in 2015.


Trend #3: Proactive Social Care

My 2014 study on what angry customers Tweet about yielded a surprising result. Waiting is the number one reason angry customers Tweet. The number three reason was no response to a message sent to the company.

In other words, customers send angry tweets because another service channel failed to resolve their problem.

Some smart companies are flipping the script. They’re actively searching for problems they can solve. 

Here’s a great example from cable provider Bright House Networks. The rep happened upon a casual Twitter conversation about cable packages.


Trend #4: Fewer Surveys

In my 2014 article on the Salesforce blog, I detailed five signs that a customer service survey is missing the point.

People are getting tired of taking surveys. Even worse, most companies don’t do anything with them!

In 2015, I expect to see more companies fix their broken surveys. Or, better yet, abandon their customer service surveys altogether for one of these alternatives.


Trend #5: Employee Motivation

Managers just can’t seem to figure out employee motivation. 

Some try incentives. Others try threats. All too many don’t try.

A few are discovering Daniel Pink’s outstanding book, Drive, where he lays out three keys to motivating knowledge workers (e.g. customer service employees):

  • Purpose
  • Mastery
  • Autonomy

Here’s a synopsis of how these principles work for customer service employees.


So, will any of these trends hold true? Only time will tell.

Three Social Customer Care Trends You Can't Ignore

Note: This post was originally posted on LinkedIn. You can find more of my LinkedIn posts here.

Social customer service was a big topic at last week’s Contact Center Expo and Conference. (You can read my re-cap here.)

At the conference, Susan McDaniel from Execs in the Know participated in a panel on social customer care where she shared some interesting statistics that really captured the audience's attention. Afterwards, she was kind enough to give me a copy of the 2013 Customer Experience Management Benchmark Study that’s co-produced by her firm and Digital Roots.

Here’s a breakdown of three big trends revealed in the report. If your company serves its customers through social media, you'll want to know about these.

Customer Care Involvement

One of the most promising trends is that customer service teams are getting increasingly involved with social channels.

The numbers looked bleak a year ago.

The Execs in the Know benchmark found only 10 percent of customer service departments owned social customer care. A Ragan study reported this number at 19 percent. Regardless of whose study you follow, the number was ridiculously low.

That number has jumped to 36 percent in the latest report.

It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s also a clear sign that many companies still don’t get it. The majority of corporate social media is still controlled by marketing (42 percent).

Two things happen when marketing dominates social media and doesn't coordinate with customer care.

  1. Customer support issues go unanswered.
  2. Service channels offer an inconsistent experience.

Social media is social + media. It’s not just for marketing.

Impactful Customer Communities

Remember when everyone was talking about Web 2.0 being the next big thing? We envisioned a world of social interaction where communities of customers could help each other.

That was in 2004.

Ten years later, we may finally be getting serious, with 41 percent of companies hosting a community forum.

Customer service software providers like Zendesk are making it easier than ever to set up communities that put FAQs and customer-driven forums side-by-side. These communities can help customers get the answers they need quickly while reducing service costs.

The online student community at Penn Foster was recognized at the Contact Center Expo and Conference with an award for Best Use of an Emerging Channel. Two stats from their success story really jumped out:

  • Emails were reduced by more than 40 percent
  • Their cost per interaction has dropped an average of $1.06 per year since 2010

Reduced cost is enticing, but it's important to remember that costs were reduced by making a community that people actually found useful and engaging.

Companies Slowly Getting Serious

This last trend is really a collection of metrics that suggest companies are starting to take social customer service more seriously.

  • 82 percent of social media engagements are made by employees (vs vendors)
  • 80 percent have policies about what conversations to engage in
  • 66 percent provide social media agents with training

All of these represent significant increases over last year’s benchmark.

Of course, the one that really jumped out was ONLY 66 percent provide social media agents with training. Apparently, the remaining 34 percent are left to their own devices. Perhaps figuratively and literally.

If you’re not training your social agents, you’re asking for trouble.

What’s Next?

Social customer service finally seems to be maturing, but it still has a ways to go.

Facebook is 10 years old. Twitter is 8 years old. More than 90 percent of companies use these channels to engage customers.

It’s about time more companies figure it out. Key areas for improvement include:

  • Faster response times
  • Fewer ignored questions
  • Consistent service quality across all channels

The few companies that get it right can really stand out from the rest that don’t.