In Part 1 of this blog series, I addressed how firms need to better understand and address what customers expect of services in an increasingly digital world.
There are many organisations that seem to have approached customer service from a purely short-term perspective rather than from a strategic one, adopting new channels with seemingly little integration with existing channels.  I often note a lack of understanding as to the role each channel plays in customer service from the customer’s perspective.  For example, organisations need to think about how and when they use social to engage with customers.
In terms of timing, global organisations with Twitter accounts have to realise that customers will expect to be able to interact with the company via that account 24/7. There is no point in saying the account is managed from 09.00 to 17.00 as one country’s 09.00 to 17.00 is another’s 17.00 to 00.00 and another’s 00.00 to 08.00, etc. Getting this wrong can result in negative attention as I noted in Part 1 of this series.

Once organisations get the timings right, they need to understand expectations around the medium itself.  Social networks are not there simply as broadcast channels. The clue is in the name: Social networks are social.  Customers expect to be able to interact with their chosen brands and companies using these channels.  If organisations don’t interact with customers, they can rest assured that customers will interact with each other and the results of those interactions will seldom be in the company’s favour.  You can observe this happening on the Twitter accounts of various rail companies whenever there are severe train delays.
Social networks are channels of communication – just as they shouldn’t be used for broadcast messaging only, they should equally not be used simply as the effective ‘reception desk’ for a company or brand.  When a customer engages on Twitter for example, they should not be directed to an email address to continue the dialogue.  Companies must be prepared to engage fully with a customer via their channel of choice.  While a customer will accept that they can’t make or receive a payment on Twitter, at least for now, they will absolutely expect their customer issue to be resolved via that channel.  In fact, according to Marketing Charts, not only do consumers expect a response, but for Twitter users, “53% of consumers who expect brands to respond to their tweets expect that those responses come in less than an hour, a figure which rises 72% when complaints are involved”.  For those customers that like to jump between channels, their needs can be accommodated by providing Customer Service with a single view of the customer as discussed in Part 1 of this blog series.
If customers have issues with companies or their products, they will increasingly turn to social networks to vent their frustration and look for resolutions.  A research study done in the UK in 2012 found that 36% of consumers, or 18 million people, are using social media to ‘talk’ to companies – in line with all other social media statistics, this number will have now increased.  Organisations must be prepared for this by ensuring the team that manages their social network accounts is fully apprised of any known product issues as well as the ins and outs of current campaigns.  It’s also important that such contact is acknowledged within an hour of a customer’s comments in order to meet expectations.
Companies who do not engage with their customers via social will find themselves losing money
Social, in addition to being a necessary medium for effective customer service and for maintenance of existing revenues, also  presents opportunities for an increased understanding of the customer and therefore increased revenues, which I’ll discuss in my next post.