Customer Service and Social Media: Tools, Analytical Wealth and Brand Perception Decoded

Social media customer service is fast moving into mainstream enterprise strategies owing to the hype created amongst brands. Customer relationship management had been an age old concept for brands wherein the brand resolved customer issues and complaints after a product or service was bought. Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) on the other hand is creating a balance in the social media ecosystem, between marketing and other departments of a business, while also solving customer issues.

The SCRM landscape across all sectors has become a major challenge in terms of building sustainable strategies and successfully entrusting consumer trust. Social networks are proving to be a turning point in a brands marketing cycle and encouraging enterprises to accept and utilize the concept of social business. I would define social business as “An integrated method within a business that brings together public relations, sales, marketing and HR to build together a simultaneous relationship with a social user.”

SCRM

The traditional customer brand score worked on how much an average customer purchases. However, the latest score is calculated by combining the spending behavior with social engagement.

It is true that every brand has a unique brand persona. It is also true that every brands customer requires a different set of messaging. Hence what might work for one brand might not work for another within social strategies. There could be a push for humor or a motivation to interact. There could be a serious set of customers and there could be pop culture customers.  Hence, best practices must be developed by each brand individually to attain quality conversations that suit their customer needs.

Current challenges within the industry:

Company-wide shift

Ignorance towards the concept of social business, therefore inability to create a response funnel narrowed down through departments.

Possible Solution – There has to be a preference for communication while sifting through an information overload. Also an eye for detail and acumen for judging inflammable conversations that can hamper the brand image. For instance the recent Amul fiasco was a clear case of right judgment by a brand after analyzing the impact a user post could get. Amul could have faced a social media crisis and a damaged reputation if the brand did not take the risk of explaining itself on the official FB page at the right time. It shows the brand had an integrated approach towards social CRM which involved the public relations and marketing teams collaborative inputs.

Adjustment in brand speak

An accustomed attitude to create FAQ based customer service in social media, resulting in template lines which fail to satisfy a customer often. Brands must alter their style of speaking to actual conversations.

Possible Solution – The brand must personally monitor what consumers are talking about it else FAQ lines might prove to become examples of social media bloopers. For instance #CCDSucks had become trending hashtag when an offline incident at Chennai CCD store was magnified on social media by a group of influencers. In this scenario if the brand had used FAQ lines the situation could have become worse. Instead the CCD graciously apologized.

Hence the brand humanized its conversation and the talks eventually died down.

Technologically backward

Inefficient tracking and lack of monitoring skills leads to delayed responses resulting in inflation of the reach and impact of a tweet or post. In my last article I wrote extensively about command centers which can be a great development within the country to equip brands with faster solutions in the domain of SCRM.

Possible Solution – The vast amount of information cannot be processed and digested manually for analysis. Hence the need for technology is the key to quick problem solving methodology. Example – Socio by Tech Mahindra and Aegis LISA are tools that enable measurement of social media engagement.

Aegis LISA provides the ability of listening, interacting, socializing and adapting with the online community of a brand via a single social media solution platform. The tool was also recognized at the 2013 Frost & Sullivan North America Growth, Innovation and Leadership (GIL)Awards Gala. It clearly focusses on integrating social and digital media.

SCRM Tools:

It is necessary to select the right software to support CRM strategy of your organization.

SCRM tools can be categorized into technology, agent and process based tools. The technology should support automated listening and advanced analytics to identify opportunities, consumer behavior patterns and trends. It should also offer alerts which support campaigns, engagement and escalations. Technology based tools should also offer workload distribution capabilities to use the right kind of resource for every conversation.

For instance, Tech Mahindra’s tool SOCIO allows you to crawl, analyze and tag posts, respond to users, monitor potential crisis, manage influencers and create business intelligence.

To ascertain customer oriented approach within a company, it is essential to deploy technologies, talent and processes needed in social CRM, through an experienced partner. Fortunately, such outsourced providers offer better SCRM capabilities including a great amount of knowledge support. The use of such tools leads to intelligent conversations, fruitful for the company and customer which eventually boost’s growth in a company.

The three interaction modules of SCRM

Brands, followers and the follower’s friends are largely the three players within the SCRM framework. Interactions happen at 3 levels i.e. brands to followers, followers to friends and followers to brands.

While followers to brands interaction, whether positive or negative is trying to break the traditional wall between them and is more of a relationship building method, brands to followers is still a robotic activity. Hence, a huge gap between the two interaction modules results in personal conflict of interest.

The third kind of interaction, followers to friends is one of the most powerful methods. However, this is being leveraged by brands through contests, campaigns and in the interim, customer service is completely lost. Ensuring that followers indulge in brand recommendation, which is then communicated to friends should be the target of a brand on social media.

Cognizant’s recent report on Moving Beyond Social CRM with the Customer Brand Score says:

“The much talked about customer-centric model and 360-degree customer view are possible when external data is mapped with internal customer data and combined in an integrated database.”

Building a CRM strategy

A CRM strategy should encompass multiple layers which include CRM goals, measurement strategies, a communication plan, various mediums, content strategy, tools and an evolving attitude. The objectives could be creating a sense of transparency, nullifying complaints of viral nature, gaining visibility or analyzing customer behavior.

Once the objectives are set, it is time to build a concrete strategy. You should map your existing sales and CRM process and integrate it with social CRM. Timing and relevancy is one of the key factors for success. But before this, you need to know what kind of data you have and what you need to solve a customer complaint on social media. Segmenting you audience, understanding their concerns and then acting to accomplish their loyalty should be the customer experience journey that transforms as an output of your strategy.

Building and nurturing a team that is equipped in terms of knowledge and skills is almost equally significant as grabbing the right tools off the shelf.

Critical strategies that you could get some inspiration from:

  • Regularly engage and get closer to your influencers. They are the ones who will help you out of a crisis situation. They must be activated during a PR crisis, product launch or during an important milestone. You can do so by rewarding them, creating privileged groups or lists for them and put across a human face so turn them into evangelists.
  • Try not to feed trolls. This situation must be avoided as much as possible. A troll is someone who posts provocative message to get a response from other users. If you as a brand post a rude message, you might land up in this trap.
  • Set expectations and let your customers know what they can expect. The timing of complaint solving should be clearly mentioned within descriptions of platforms. Also, the turnaround time of a reply is a must.
  • Strategize to handle a crisis. A plan must be in place to handle the situation whenever it arises. Protocols must be clear among the staff members, action should be taken to get immediate attention of the concerned department and mock crisis situations must be created and tested.
  • Evaluate and measure the volume of mentions. Only then will you be able to estimate the level of preparation needed to handle these issues.
  • Implementing an anticipatory service should be part of the plan. Similar to how a chess player anticipates his opponent’s moves, companies should try and brainstorm into customer psychology and predict their future requirements. They should have a proactive approach to social media customer service. For instance, airline companies should proactively tweet about flight delays instead of waiting for a customer tweet.

Understanding and talking to a social customer

Are the consumers of today facing a new syndrome called Consumer Attention Deficit Disorder? Well, it seems so, considering consumers jumping on the platforms for the smallest of things. Social customer of today is hardly understood by brands. Do not mistake any customer for not being influential.

These customers can be segmented into advocates, influencers, passives, dissatisfied, implacable, detractors and non-customers. The brand should then look at strategizing for each of these segments. For instance, create a win back strategy for the dissatisfied customers, an engagement strategy for the passives and incentivizing strategy for advocates and influencers.

After the purchase point, any consumer is likely to post a negative or a positive review, post a picture or a video and spread a message about the brand. As a brand, you must acknowledge each and every mention received. In this age and day, strangers online are trusted more for their reviews than what the brand tells them.

The most mesmerizing quality of social communications hence is speed. Everyone is thrilled about the speed at which information travels on social networks. If the brand cannot keep up with this speed, it is losing out on building trust online.

Also a brand has to keep in mind that attrition rate is highly dependent on the satisfaction from customer service received. Hence all the channels of communication should be streamlined as users have the power of social media platforms to spot and publicize the discrepancies.

Hence, ignoring the social customer can be one of the biggest mistake a company can make.

“Connecting with customers and building communities takes more effort and time than typical social media acquisition strategies.”

Social CRM takes immense time and relationship building efforts. Therefore remember, nothing changes overnight.

Apeksha Harihar, Former Editor, Social Samosa has over 5+ years of experience in digital marketing and publishing. Follow Apeksha on Twitter. She is now a Travel Writer & Photographer on Thing2gether
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