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Best Practices for Social Media Customer Care in Online Retail

January 31, 2013 By John Bryson
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Social media has arrived as a first choice channel of interaction for consumers to seek customer care and technical support when purchasing online. It's the next stage of evolution in the demand for a better online shopping experience and real-time customer service.

The birth and exponential growth of social media sites is the new horizon for shoppers. However, many businesses have been slow to embrace social media as a legitimate channel for customer engagement. Here's a common example: A customer posts a comment or question on a social media site such as Facebook or Twitter. Many retailers ignore the inquiry altogether, or issue a superficial response that directs the customer to contact them through established offline customer support channels. This is all too often a waste of the customer's time, and misses a key opportunity to both reduce costs and boost customer satisfaction by delivering a robust service experience in the customer's chosen channel of interaction.

The primary stumbling blocks for retailers occur in the following areas:

  • Monitoring: Finding relevant items on social media channels has historically proved to be an intimidating task. The overwhelming quantity of tweets and posts need to be filtered down to a single, manageable work queue of relevant content. Oftentimes this is left up to marketing folks who are typically best positioned for one-way communication, most commonly focused on corporate self-promotion and brand building.
  • Action: Social inquiries require immediate action. The inability to respond quickly and effectively turns to customer remorse, reputational damage and lost sales opportunities. Success comes with cutting-edge best practices and highly trained agents who are well-positioned to deliver final resolution in the customer's chosen channel of interaction, regardless of the complexity of the inquiry.

Another common failure occurs when retail outlets attempt to force the customer out of the social channel, particularly when social is the customer's chosen channel of engagement. Often due to immature or outdated processes, companies will redirect customers to legacy voice channels for interaction. Even if they're able to locate the appropriate customer inquiries and comments online, brands fall short in their quest to provide full problem resolution within the social channelThis strategy typically fails because it forces the customer unnaturally out of their chosen mode of interaction. Customers can easily call into a traditional voice queue immediately if they wanted to. Brands that will succeed in social media will provide resolution in the customer's chosen channel of interaction, period.

There are many customer engagement cases that intuitively are poorly suited for resolution in the social channel. But not to worry, a logical escalation path is available today and it doesn't involve any involuntary escalations to legacy voice channels of customer interaction. It starts with building a unified agent queue for all text-based forms of customer communication, much in the same way retailers have done for years in traditional voice interaction channels. There's no need for a customer to be transferred to another agent to explain their problem once more simply because the native channel of interaction is insecure or otherwise inadequate.

A natural and secure escalation path exists to provide a link to a live chat session so the issue can be resolved online and immediately, with the same agent that intercepted their social inquiry in the first place. The move from social to chat is a much "softer ask" than moving a social request to voice. Furthermore, since the agent can be the same and all of the data from the social interaction can convey, the customer generally will perceive the interaction to be seamless.



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