3 Tips for Developing Effective Social Customer Support

Developing social customer support strategies isn't just a good idea in today's digital world; it's critical. Research shows 40 percent of consumers use social media for customer support, resulting in higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, according to 61 percent and 58 percent of survey respondents, respectively.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that many organizations simply aren't doing enough to keep up with consumers increasingly flocking to social media to engage with them. The same research study, conducted by Five9 and the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), shows more than 68 percent of businesses recognize social media as a necessary service channel, yet 60 percent do not formally support social customer care because they don't feel they have the right resources or tools in place.

The obvious conclusion is that companies need to take proactive steps to provide social customer support or risk losing customers to the competition.

Here's a look at three best practices for how to develop an effective social customer support program:

1. Personalized Customer Service

Because it's common for customers to use multiple communications channels to resolve a single issue, companies need to be sure they're optimizing customer engagement at every stage of the customer journey. Doing so involves painting a complete picture of the customer profile, identifying customer pain points, values, behaviors, channel preferences, etc., and analyzing every conversation or interaction agents have with customers across multiple channels.

As Conversocial CEO Joshua March has said, a customer's social identity has the potential to help build out a more complete view of the customer.

"Social sign-on gives the opportunity for businesses to connect social data to core customer records and use it as a primary identifier for their customers," he said in an article for ICMI. "If [companies] can tie the data together—not just between customer service channels, but at all points the business touches a customer—it gives the ability to deliver completely personalized service however and wherever [companies and] customers interact."

2. Agent Segmentation/Dedicated Resources to Social

In today's fast-paced digital landscape, customers expect real-time support from companies, yet many organizations are falling short of customer expectations. According to a study from eDigital Research, 80 percent of social media responses took an average of 12 hours, compared to an average phone wait time of just 56 seconds.

To cater to the demands of the always-connected customer, organizations need to dedicate specific resources to each channel, including social media. This type of segmentation allows for trained service customer service agents to handle requests specific to each channel, which can ultimately provide a better service experience for customers.

3. Investment in Agent Performance Improvements

To continually grow and manage agent teams, managers and supervisors should offer ongoing training opportunities that can make agents feel both satisfied with their jobs and committed to their customers. The question is: How?

There are a variety of ways to continually improve agent performance, including workforce optimization software, speech analytics solutions, agent scorecards, and more. The key is to approach customer service improvements across all channels, not just social media, to drive customer engagement optimization throughout the customer life cycle.

Social listening and sentiment analysis is another way to evaluate agent and overall company performance by analyzing positive and negative mentions across social networks. "Brands can proactively address negative sentiment, turning public complaints into shareable solutions," according to a NextWeb article on customer service via social media. "Customers that share their frustrations then find out that a brand really cares about what they say and think."

Companies need to face facts: Social media is a communications channel that is only increasing in importance with customers and becoming an integral part of customer support programs. Research, however, shows social customer service is one of the biggest challenges for company leadership, with more traditional channels such as phone and email being given priority over social media.

To develop an effective social customer support program, organizations should strive to personalize customer service, dedicate resources to social media, and invest in agent performance improvements to ensure a positive customer experience overall.

Maureen Szlemp is marketing director at CallMiner.

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