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From Social Support to Social Customer Engagement

Customer support through Internet social channels is certainly not something new. It has been around for more than a few years now, with bulletin boards, forums and other open discussion sites being the original set of channels companies used. What has changed is the role of the people monitoring those discussions on behalf of companies. The community manager, mostly a marketing role in many companies, has now evolved into a more robust role, that of the Social Customer Engagement Agent.

Social Customer Engagement Agents (SCEAs) sit at the intersection of customer support and marketing. Customer service and support is indeed the “new” marketing. A good, hopefully great, experience is the only thing that keeps customers coming back to a brand nowadays, in many ultracompetitive industries. Therefore, SCEAs have a dual responsibility for monitoring social networks (increasingly through software to that effect), reacting to customers concerns, comments, rants and issues preemptively, leveraging the power of expert users and promoters help resolve issues and questions directly, but also carefully caring for your brand online with every post and interaction.

What does this mean exactly for Customer Support or Customer Success organizations? Well, it means that the people in charge of your social media support cannot have the same training/mindset/skills of support engineers responding to support tickets on e-mail or picking up support phone calls. The discussions are markedly different, and not necessarily issue or problem specific. Although it is plausible to have hybrid agents who do both, you should also consider specialized SCEAs, budget permitting, that provide those dimensions of online social literacy and CX/branding sensibility while engaging with customers. That said, the function of SCEAs is not magic, and must be designed and managed as an operation of its own, process and policy included.

Finally, here are some helpful facts about social networks, as it applies to customer support:

According to Pew Research Center’s Internet Project Library Survey (September 2013): 71% of online adults use Facebook, while 18% of online adults use Twitter.

Facebook is the preferred channel when it comes to social media support.

The demographics are:

90% of 18-29 years old use social media, while 78% of 30-49 years old and 65% of 50-64 years do.

Follow through, so simple yet…

It is quite common to “throw out there” idealisms on how much customers matter to us, it’s quite easy to say and even advertise the idea of how important our customers are, how customers come first, how customer service oriented we are. But just how true is that? Is this a reality all throughout the customers’ journey with us? Or is it more focused on the sales phase?

Engaging customers and getting them to adopt our product is just the initial phase of what can hopefully be a long term relationship. Now its time to follow trough with the promises we made.

Following through means making our customer feel appreciated, and when is our greatest opportunity to do so? When they reach out to us if issues arise, when they are the most vulnerable. That is the perfect opportunity to turn what can be a “sour” moment into an opportunity to provide them with great customer support that will keep them coming back for more of what we offer.

It is at this time when we can shine and make them feel that they got more than just a product or service, they got our commitment to helping them make their life easier. This is a no-brainer. Taking care of our customers and providing them with great customer support experiences is the key to customer loyalty and creating brand ambassadors.

Follow through means doing what we say we would do, being on top of customer issues and inquiries without our customer having to ask again, offering a bit more than they expected, surprising them with our follow up. Follow through needs to be a practice that we embed into our workflows and processes, not just a loose guideline, or something we leave up to the talent or discretion of each support agent. And we need to measure it.

And what are the benefits of designing your support around your customer? What does this mean in numbers? Well according to the Harvard Business School, increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.

So we need to start following through with our promises to our clients, their loyalty depends on it.