Martin Hill-Wilson: Social is your radar for traditional customer service

9th Jul 2013

Over the last 30 years, customer service has been hidden in the call centre and avoided getting better but with social, organisations are now visible 24/7 and failure to continuously improve your service operations will make you look bad in the marketplace.

So said Martin Hill-Wilson at Our Social Times’ Social CRM event in London, who explained why social is important and who’s doing it well. “In the old days, there was no way of measuring customer service or marketing so nothing really changed. With social though, it’s all visible and chief execs can now find out what’s happening to their brand before they even turn up to work,” he said.

Pointing to a survey of 23,000 US online consumers, he showed that demand to interact with brands for service related-reasons via social has increased 30% with Generation Y now primarily interacting with brands over social channels for service, not marketing.

But to put this into context, the volume of social traffic as service is still only somewhere between 2 and 10% - it’s early days for social customer service, he says. What happens when the volume becomes significant?

“As customers, we don’t segment our experiences,” he said. “We individually decide what’s really attractive to us and expect it elsewhere. Why can’t I tweet a doctor? Well, they haven’t woken up yet but you ought to be able to.”

So who’s ‘getting’ social customer service? Hill-Wilson highlights Social Bakers' Socially Devoted index which ranked Personal Argentina, KLM and Claro as the top performers on Facebook, respectively, and Tesco, Vodafone and O2 as those doing best for social customer service on Twitter.

But social isn’t just siloed to Facebook and Twitter, he explains, but occurs across multiple channels. Peer-to-peer support and co-creation are also areas that some brands are using effectively for service. Sky used a community-based approach to bring the customer inside the organisation and saw customer satisfaction rise 87% whilst Barclaycard brought its customer into the R&D process to create a brand new card and saw a faster rate of adoption than any other card launch.

“Social is the ROI of your digital investments, which actually just means a ton of infrastructure. What transforms behaviour is at the human level – listening and behaving authentically. And social can represent that beautifully. Allow individuals to represent the company; social can humanise the service experience.”

So how much should organisations focus their efforts and investment into social compared to more traditional service channels? Hill-Wilson claims that social customer service won’t work if you allow it to outstrip your traditional customer service operations.

“Social is a radar to the rest of your capability, allowing you to aspire and learn. Continuous improvement should be fed back first of all into existing customer service. If you want an example of best customer service, it’s the last time you archived word of mouth,” he said. “You’re only as good as your last positive sentiment.

“Social analytics has become the first real-time corporate mirror and can bring an exec downstairs before leaving for the weekend to find out whats going on. Service has now become a strategic asset. That is a change,” he concluded.

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