10 Reasons Marketers Need Twitter Brand Pages
The divide between tactics and strategy: Value

Social Customer Service IS NOT Community Management

The story is familiar to many of us,  

Joe has a negative customer service experience.  Joe tweets about it.  Jane (the brand community manager) reaches out to try to help.  Jane asks Joe to DM (private message) with more information.  Joe sends a DM and gets no response.  Joe sends another DM and gets no response.  Joe gives up.

Let's break down where and why this failure occurs:

  1. Tools and Experience: The brand knew they needed a voice in social to engage their customers, so they appointed someone (Jane) an assigned her with "social".  As Jane works in "social" and not customer service, Jane isn't equipped with the proper tools or experience to solve customer problems on her own.
  2. Lack of Support: Jane knows what she is doing in social.  Jane knows that by asking for a DM, she minimizes brand exposure and maintains the customer's privacy.  However, Jane may not have enough experience to know that she needs more support, or may not have the right leadership ready to provide her with the support and resources she needs.
  3. Lack of Process: As a great community manager, Jane likely shared Joe's complaint with an internal customer service lead.  However, without a defined process and tools for tracking progress within that process, Jane has no means of following up on issues she has shared.  Additionally, it is very possible that Jane is using a consumer or pro-sumer conversation management tool, and has little insight into the messages she hasn't yet responded to.
  4. Lack of Accountability: In all likelihood, Jane and her management aren't effectively measuring their performance.  Without a full feedback loop, nobody knows about their areas of opportunity for improvement until it becomes a PR crises.

What does this mean for brands?

Social demands more than a communications or engagement strategy.  Social demands an operational strategy, defined process, and performance benchmarks.  Social demands that teams work in tight collaboration, presenting a single streamlined customer experience.  In other words, your social presence needs to operate like a contact center on the back-end, and a real person on the front-end.  

The time to act it NOW

Until recently, we all had our Joe moments and went on our way.  We trusted the brand a little less, we thought less of their social offering, but rarely did our individual stories become more than personal experiences.  Some people wrote blog posts, others complained on customer complaint sites.  But the industry is catching on.  

Paul Carr of TechCrunch called out a brand by name, and is amassing a content series on the topic.  As this meme gains steam, it is very possible that we may see a mainstream media backlash against the entire space, calling out and often misunderstanding if not over-hyping many of the common shortcomings of social customer service.

If you don't yet have a solid social customer service strategy, it's time to start building one.  If you recognize that you need help, find a solid partner who has experience building BOTH social solutions and contact centers.  Work with your partner to ensure that you have the right staff, training, tools, processes and benchmarks in place.  

If you would like a refferal to some excellent social customer service strategic consultants or technology solutions, please feel free to email me directly.