Who should run social customer service?
Customers increasingly want to interact with companies through social media. Whether that’s getting their issues sorted quickly, asking basic questions or sharing their experiences of good or bad service/products, for many social media is now the channel of choice. Speed and ease of use are some of the factors driving this - our own 2012 Eptica Social Customer Service Study showed that 26% of UK consumers complain more now they can use social media. Nearly a quarter (22%) believed social media meant their queries would be dealt with more quickly, even though in many instances this wasn’t proved to be the case.
So social customer service is something that every organisation, large or small, needs to consider. Most people agree on this. Which brings the next question – who should run customer service on social media?
This is where companies and approaches begin to diverge. Essentially there are three groups running social customer service in different companies – marketing, customer service teams and customers themselves.
Marketing and PR teams were early adopters of social media, recognising the ability the channel has to connect with customers. Consequently by default in many companies they’ve become responsible for social customer service. However they simply don’t have the skills and training to answer customer service queries – particularly as volumes of enquiries increase. The risk is that inconsistent information is given out through this silo-based approach – and of course marketing staff are prevented from doing their real jobs as they are too busy answering customer queries.
Customer service teams
It seems obvious that social customer service should be the responsibility of existing customer service departments. This means companies can provide an integrated, consistent approach across channels – a key metric for customers according to Forrester. But to deliver this customer service teams need new tools and training to ensure they can monitor social media, liaise with marketing to avoid duplication and integrate the likes of Twitter and Facebook into their everyday operations.
Some companies essentially see social media as the chance to outsource service to the customer community. Let consumers help each other and there is no need for organisations themselves to get involved, saving time and money. While in the case of many technical products early adopting customers are happy to help each other, but through this approach companies lose control of the whole customer relationship as well as missing out on the chance to learn from the queries they receive. If no-one helps solve a customer problem the company itself will ultimately get the blame – and potentially lose future sales, making it a false economy.
A lot of the debates/battles on who owns social customer service have taken place internally within companies. However the Eptica study found an overwhelming consumer preference to talk to customer service teams. 68% of UK respondents, and 61% of those in France said that customer service departments should be responsible for social customer service. Only 13% of Britons (and 14% of the French) wanted queries to be answered by marketing. Indeed in both countries more people (25% in France, 19% in the UK) thought the wider social media community should answer queries and complaints, instead of marketing.
Social media is too big and has too many customer touchpoints to be left to just one department. But it is clear that customers want their service queries and complaints to be dealt with those best positioned to solve their problems – and that’s the customer service department.