By Don Keane
Social media has revolutionized the way customers interact with businesses by opening up a door to a form of two-way communication. It has opened up an entirely new outlet for customer’s to voice their opinions and start a conversation with businesses as well as other consumers.
There are obvious benefits to creating a channel where consumers can voice their opinions and directly make contact with brands. However, these new channels give the customer – or even thousands of customers – the platform to create a commotion and cause change in favor of the consumers.
One customer on the Web inciting change is exactly what happened with Bank of America in October of 2011. Molly Katchpole, a 22 year-old recent graduate, decided to put up a fight against the new five dollar a month fee Bank of America planned on implementing for debit card use. Upset about the fee, Katchpole leveraged the Internet and social networks to encourage other upset customers to sign a petition, resulting in approximately 300,000 signatures. This story caught the eye of the media, which catapulted Katchpole into the national spotlight, including several national TV appearances on ABC, CNN, CBS, and more.
What ended up happening? After one customer’s effort to be noticed and appreciated, Bank of America heard her voice loud and clear and decided to drop the plan to charge customers for using debit cards. Additionally, Katchpole’s use of social media reminded customers how much influence they truly have – and it was a big wake up call for companies both big and small.
This shift in power to the customer has had an impact on traditional call centers as well. With the Internet and social media being used as a channel to interact with customer service representatives, there are more ways to connect with a company than by calling a representative to speak with an agent over the phone. With technological advancements, now consumers have access to multiple forms of communication. For example, while a customer waits on hold on the phone, they may also be emailing for support, live chatting with a rep on the company’s website, writing on the company’s Facebook wall, or tweeting about their issue.
How should a company’s call center cope with this change in customer service?
One solution is to become a multi-channel contact center that merges the phone, web chat, IVR, social media, and all other popular communication methods. Although it is a challenge to manage multiple communication methods, creating a truly unified and well integrated customer experience is an important and necessary step to remain competitive and improve customer service.
While the phone continues to be a standard method of customer service support, some customers are more comfortable and familiar with using social media as a means to get in touch with a company. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are rapidly gaining popularity as forms of communication between businesses and customers. Keeping this in mind, companies need to adapt and learn to accept new media as a direct point of contact with customers. In this case, many businesses have created new jobs for their companies for social media experts and online-community managers to monitor what people are saying about their brands and respond to consumer questions and engage with their customers through social media.
So how does a company go about embracing and integrating social media into its business? Here are three steps to consider taking:
- Change the company’s view of social media. It’s not a threat, it’s a new opportunity to engage and provide service to customers. Yes, it’s true that complaints on social media platforms can be viewed by many current and potential customers. But if companies are able to quickly resolve the issue and respond in a timely manner, imagine how many people will be impressed and see the company as one that truly cares about its customers.
- Educate and train the company’s customer service agents. With many forms of communication, agents require training to learn how to respond to and manage all these channels in a timely manner. Social media is different because it’s unstructured. Agents who are responsible for the company’s social media properties need to be able to handle this much more casual type of customer interaction. The goal is to quickly respond and be genuinely honest. Customers always appreciate truthfulness and react positively to it.
- Track and analyze the company’s social media interactions. In doing so, the company can uncover trends and learn what issues are recurring. By listening to customer opinions, businesses have the opportunity to make necessary improvements to products and/or services and satisfy customers.
When companies realize the impact of social media and take its strength seriously, they’re able to effectively manage and improve their customer experience. Do you connect with brands through social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook? If so, feel free to share your customer experience stories in the comments section below!