Effective social media monitoring can redefine how consumers buy products, services and get customer service from a company. Many brands today are actively trying out social media monitoring tools to support these objectives. When it comes to customer care, it’s important to remember that consumers often have strong feelings about various brands, and that they expect companies to respond quickly and appropriately. More than ever, consumers today are airing their comments and complaints via social media tools. Thus it’s critical for organizations to establish an appropriate strategy, and effectively integrate those strategies and processes into customer service operations. Tracking what’s being said online about the company becomes an important first step.
The challenge today is not finding consumer discussions of a brand, but sifting the relevant and insightful comments from useless chatter and turning the findings into valuable business insights. In our last article, SocialMedia Content Overload – The Challenge for Companies Monitoring Social Media, the Brand Monitor™ team at Position² addressed the issue of filtering out relevant data from “noise” on social media channels. In this article, we discuss how brands can integrate social media monitoring into customer service operations to enrich customer experiences, reduce customer service costs, and transform their businesses by using monitoring tools.
Why Should Companies Listen to their Customers?
For the most part, the only way companies know that customers have questions, comments, or concerns is if they contact customer service, make the news, form a public group, or if buying patterns, stock value, and sales trends suddenly shift. For every inbound customer inquiry, there is a significant percentage of existing and potential customers actively discussing the same topic out in the open, simply looking for guidance, opinions, acknowledgment and/or information. These discussions usually transpire without company participation, leaving people to resolve issues and questions on their own. This leaves the door open for the competition to enter the conversation and steer customers in their direction.
Social Media monitoring helps companies track and respond to these real-time conversations that impact their brand. To maximize its potential, it is important to leverage it strategically and treat it as an integral part of a company’s overall customer service strategy. Some businesses have gone a step further and assist customers with issues via social networks. This practice can save businesses time and money.
Benefits of Integrating Social Media Monitoring into Customer Support Operations
Used correctly and consistently, social media monitoring helps companies offer a low-cost way to deliver services, and to gather important data on market trends, product feedback, brand perception and customers. Recently Gartner questioned 250 customer service executives, and found that only 15% had a Twitter strategy for customer services. This indicates that companies still have a long way to go before grasping this new technology.
According to the Forrester Case Study “Lenovo Takes Ownership Of Social Media To Reduce Customer Service Costs“, using a peer-to-peer support community, Lenovo saw a 20% reduction in laptop support call rates, an increase in agent productivity, a shortened problem resolution cycle and an increase in Net Promoter Scores. This has led to better products and a reduction in support costs.
Companies Expand their Customer Support to Include Social Media Monitoring
Social media monitoring helps companies identify communities where their brand advocates (and detractors) interact. It is now possible to cast a wide net and pinpoint relevant conversations happening all over the social web. The chances are very high that the conversations offering the most insight are NOT happening on the company’s own online properties.
Many brands such as WalMart, Dell, Comcast, Toyota, Domino’s Pizza, Papa John’s, and Teleflora are all proactively monitoring and interacting with their customers on Facebook, addressing their concerns and directing them to the appropriate channel for assistance. Dell, Comcast and Zappos are also using Twitter to listen to their customers.
- In 2005, Dell had a customer service issue that turned into a PR disaster and is still known today as “Dell Hell“. After this debacle, Dell started integrating the social media monitoring into its DNA. Dell now has multiple Twitter channels including the Dell Outlet on Twitter, with sales approaching $6.5 million in 2009. Dell has also woven social media into the corporate website with sharing, comments and reviews throughout the website. Moreover, the firm has created active advocate engagement through its Customer Advisory Panel to listen to and engage with power bloggers and influential online personalities. Most recently, Dell launched its Social Media Command Center, a department dedicated to listening in on social conversations. The @dellcares Twitter account is only one aspect of the social media command center. Dell has social media representatives across the company, who can join any online conversation that is Dell-related. Early indicators show that this new center will make Dell more responsive to their customers. The new social media business unit consists of a team of full-time staff who monitor online conversations around the clock and speak 11 languages.
- Comcast’s Twitter account is @ComcastCares and employs 11 people to monitor and respond to queries from their 33,500 followers on Twitter. Comcast also has a presence on Facebook, YouTube, blogs and various help forums.
- @MicrosoftHelps is a Twitter account devoted to Windows 7, and has 3,500 followers. The account is monitored by 7 full-time employees backed by in-house support staff. Microsoft plans to beef up support for non-Windows 7 products as well.
- JetBlue, which recently set up 24/7 monitoring of Twitter at its Salt Lake City reservations center, said it tries fixing small problems with operations almost immediately after someone tweets. Social-media monitors will call gate agents to suggest more information be announced if someone complains about a lack of information about delays, for example.
- GM is now working hard to keep customers satisfied. Shortly after emerging from bankruptcy last year, GM formed a new customer service team dedicated to searching the Web for negative comments about GM products. The team monitors social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, offering solutions to problems whenever possible. GM uses 5 U.S. call centers to communicate with over 25,000 customers and dealers each day. GM is planning to double its social media efforts next month, and is beginning to integrate automated systems into the program to further expand its monitoring efforts. So far, their efforts appear to be winning over customers, with customer satisfaction rates going up since the start of the program.
- Delta Airlines’ customer service agents monitor social media channels continuously for any negative mentions of the airlines. When bad weather creates delays and missed connections, the tweets fly, the Delta agents respond with specific information about the causes of delays. Some customers tweet from 35,000 feet using on-board Wi-Fi, and the social-media customer service agents ensure they have been rebooked before they land. Compared with other consumer companies, airlines- with their array of rules, occasional delays and lost luggage- can be particularly vulnerable to real-time complaints in social media. Like Delta, many airlines have operations dedicated to seeking out and resolving online complaints that mention their company. Delta states that it sees social media channels like Twitter and Facebook as a chance to offer better service. The company created a channel called @DeltaAssist and asked employees in the social-media lab to offer customers quick fixes, such as re-bookings and reimbursements. Sometimes this extends to waiving rules that consumers typically find unbendable at most airlines.
Companies are realizing huge returns on their participation in social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs in general. According to Forrester’s report on “The ROI of Online Customer Service Communities“, early evidence indicates that social media is a stellar choice for customer service because it provides a large ROI in a short period of time while delivering superb customer experiences. However, the challenge is to wade through large volumes of data to find nuggets that provide most value. By using social media monitoring tools, companies can identify relevant conversations, analyze them and respond to them in real-time. This, in turn, results in improved customer service, better brand advocacy, augmented brand loyalty, and increased customer base and brand visibility.