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7 tips for taking customer support social

27 Jun 2012

Stephen Fry’s Twitter rant about Telecom is probably still fresh in the minds of most. Whether it was deserved or not, the story went viral dragging New Zealand broadband, and Telecom’s services and attitude towards customers, into the spot light.

However, the use of social media shouldn’t be one-sided and led by the public. Companies are quickly getting in on the action too – in fact, social media is the fastest-growing space for providing customer support.

According to Gartner, only 5% of the top 1,000 global companies took advantage of social media to improve service processes in 2010; a figure expected to grow to more than 40% by 2015. Gartner also predicts that community peer-to-peer support projects will supplement or replace Tier 1 contact centre support amongst these organisations.

Zendesk’s research also speaks to a new school of customer that expects companies to provide support via social channels. They don’t have the time or the inclination to pick up the phone and sit on hold. Instead, savvy consumers are finding that using social media often brings a faster and more satisfactory response.

Already 62% of consumers have used social media for customer service issues; 76% would like to do so if they understood the tools better.

Most companies say that it is a fear of situations ‘gone wrong’ blowing up on social channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, that have scared them off social media.

Yet ignoring it or keeping it at arm’s length won’t make it go away. That’s because when customers have a bad service experience, they don’t get mad, they get even. Every year, one billion tweets ‘diss’ products, and everyone has seen the fallout from the more high-profile social media disasters.

What’s more, a survey by Colloquy showed that "even among consumers who are most loyal to, engaged with and willing to recommend brands they like…31% said they are far more likely to share information about a bad experience with a product or service than a good one.” Even your biggest fans blab when things go wrong, and social media only amplifies this tendency.

Since almost 20% of Twitter users seek customer support each month, and 61% want information about products or services, according to a social media survey conducted by TSIA, now’s the time for every company to begin embracing social media as a primary customer support channel.

Best practices for embracing social media into your customer support strategy

Go social: You need to be where your customers are. If you aren’t your competitors will be.

Plan: Have a strategy that is owned by a single person or team of people that can be eventually shared across your entire organisation.

Educate employees: Ensure that your employees know how to ‘socially’ delight the customer.

Monitor: Few organisations have the luxury of a Telstra-sized team of 60 people used solely for monitoring social media sites. Proactive, real-time monitoring tools, however, can even help teams of one understand what’s being said about them in the social space.

Respond in kind: Begin your response in the same place as the complaint did. You can always move to another channel if needed.

Be quick: Bad news travels fast. A quick response is critical – and we know that low satisfaction ratings typically are the result of high volumes of customer support incidents and slow first response rates.

Integrate social media into your customer support activity: Zendesk, for instance, immediately turns tweets or Facebook posts into a customer service incident that is sent immediately to a support agent. Staff can monitor and react to support inquiries happening on social media all from the same place.

Social media is not only a great way for companies to prevent a small dustup from turning into a major PR disaster, it’s an easy, low barrier way for companies to initiate positive, engaging interactions with customers. More importantly, customers are more likely to choose companies that embrace social media rather than ignore it.

By Michael Hansen, vice president of Zendesk. This article originally appeared in the June issue of IT Brief.