In our guide to social customer service, we’ve assessed the need for delivering customer service across social networks. We’ve outlined the skills required, the tools to use and the methods for measuring success. However, we’ve yet to discuss some of the processes for establishing and escalating customer service queries on social networks.
“Traditionally, [social customer service] has been managed through a ‘manual’ triage – i.e. all brand mentions have been dropped into a single pot and subsequently directed and assigned across marketing, PR, customer service, technical support, billing teams, etc. It was a pretty cumbersome task and obviously had an impact on response time.”
However, managing queries on social media has evolved and customer expectations have increased, and for businesses handling large quantities of complaints, the process now requires a combination of teamwork and tools, and a strategic approach to getting the right messages to the right customer service agents, as soon as possible.
For instance - tools such as Sentiment’s social customer service platform have helped bring some level of automation to proceedings, identifying specific types of mention across social networks - through related keywords and phrases - and automatically assigning them to a specific team, or even an individual agent.
This type of process undoubtedly speeds service up. Yet to be fully effective, Dr. Nicola Millard, head of customer insight and futures for BT’s global innovation division says that all businesses must combine this automation with a strategic routing process, and assign specific members of a customer service team to oversee these four stages:
“Social media is a bit like a fire hose. There’s a torrent of content being sprayed at you, so the first thing to do is to figure out where that content is likely to be. Which particular social dance floors are your customers inhabiting (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, forums etc)? Not everyone writes directly to you on your wall or uses a direct @ address – particularly if your brand name is commonly used in other contexts, e.g. “BT” is a musician and also a common abbreviation. Looking at context can be important to help figure this out – e.g. if “BT” is followed by “broadband” then it is probably something relevant to telecoms but if it’s relating to “music” then it’s probably to do with the musician and therefore not relevant.”
Positive or negative
“Secondly, it is important to figure out whether the content is negative (in our ‘Serving the Social Customer’ survey about 24% of content were complaints or criticisms) or positive (about 15%). Sentiment analysis can be used to great effect, but irony and sarcasm can sometimes lead to false results. These examples could very easily be incorrectly classified as positive: “A whole 2p off my next shop. Thank you @SuperCo, I know where to come for a good bargain”; “I’m really glad TrainCo have installed saunas in their rolling stock. It’s doing wonders for my skin”.”
Level of influence
“Thirdly, some voices on social media are abnormally loud – the more followers you have, the louder the voice. If a rock star with ten million followers is tweeting negative things about you, it might be a significant brand issue which requires rapid escalation. The viral influence of social content can be easily determined using network analysis tools like Klout. This doesn’t mean you ignore people with low social influence, but it’s crucial to prioritise.”
Type of enquiry
“You can route and prioritise content directly to those who are best-equipped to deal with it using skills based routing. Inevitably, these are likely to be your existing customer service team but it’s advantageous to direct queries directly to the correct department, whether that it marketing, legal, PR or the CEO’s office.”
A critical part of any customer service process is escalation, and on social media this is no different –especially in cases when sensitive or detailed customer issues are raised.
Conversocial’s 2015 Definitive Guide to Social Customer Service suggests brands develop an ‘escalation map’ that provides clear guidelines about which messages agents should and shouldn’t respond to, as well as the actual methods of escalation. This requires customer service leaders to:
- Look at the messages you receive on your social channels, and pick out some real-life examples of messages that do and do not need a response.
- Make the first level of escalation the team leader. They can determine whether any ambiguous customer messages should be escalated further, and track the ongoing performance of their agents.
- Pick out real examples of brand-related tweets/posts that should be passed to communications for approval. Identify criteria for your supervisors and ensure they are well connected into PR and marketing, and potentially experts in other areas of your business.
- Make your escalation map a live document. For extremely sensitive issues, frontline agents should be equipped with a continually updated list of topics that need PR or legal approval when formulating a response.
Finally, having a coping strategy for unexpected spikes in queries and moments of crisis is a must. Conversocial’s Definitive Guide to Social Customer Service suggests creating a holding message as quickly as possible for when crisis events occur. This should be followed by a team leader drafting responses to different types of customer messages for agents to use as template examples, establishing a line of communication with your PR and legal team followed by scheduling which team members should be responsible for dealing with these escalating messages at any given time, to ensure “nothing falls through the cracks”.
However, Millard adds that ultimately, judgement in crisis should still be based around 3 factors that drive every communication your customer service team has on social media:
“You should always ensure that part of the process is your team asking these three questions: Is this a conversation we should actually engage in? Some comments are not worth replying to and sometimes people don’t necessarily expect a reply. Is this a conversation we should engage with on a public channel? It is a brave soul that does everything in public. It can also be very limiting, especially if you need to discuss any personal or financial details with the customer.
“Finally: Is this a conversation we need to have on direct messaging, webchat, email or phone? The ability to switch the customer from public to private can be critical yet it also needs to be easy and seamless, so the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves.”
Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.