30/01/2012

By Richard McCrossan, Genesys

Recent statistics from the Genesys Social Media and Customer Services Summit found that an overwhelming 72% of attendees hadn't yet integrated social media into their business customer service operations.

So while many organisations have perhaps got as far as creating a social media presence, the majority still face the challenge of determining how to handle customer communication via that channel. The statistics are confirmed by research from Contact Babel, which found that only 16% of organisations currently see social media as a key customer service channel. They are not yet using its potential for direct customer engagement.

Both statistics flag up a major flaw in the majority of companies' communication with customers. By ignoring the impact of social media as a communication channel, companies are losing a huge opportunity to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and meet a lot of customers where they spend the majority of their time.

Customers interact with friends and family via social networks with great immediacy, and will expect their interaction with a company to be fulfilled in the same way. So to be truly effective, organisations need to integrate social media into customer service, treating it as just as important a channel as any other to contact customers and resolve any potential issues — importantly before they have the chance to go viral across this 'immediate' communication channel.

The questions customers will ask are just the same as through any other channel — so employees need to be as empowered to be able to provide those answers through social media. It is one more channel through which customers expect excellent customer service, and as more and more people are accessing social media through multiple devices, customers will only become more demanding as a result of the immediate nature of social networks which they're increasingly used to.

Never before has customer service been so public, and companies need to have a clear strategy in place to manage customer interactions. This needs to be supported by a formal means to co-ordinate the information flow and response between various departments — whether that's marketing, sales or customer service, front or back office — to deliver a truly satisfying, seamless customer experience.

This will enable agents to meet customers where they are and communicate through their preferred channel. They can respond to the customer’s experience immediately and directly. So if a customer Tweets a problem, the best response would be to Tweet in response to show that you've acknowledged their concern, and then solve it appropriately — either publicly or privately — depending on the nature of the issue.

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