By using natural language monitoring instead of basic keyword searches, organizations can more easily eliminate the noise on social media to locate pertinent messages. Natural language monitoring takes a previously unmanageable amount of information and brings the appropriate messages that merit a response to the top. It also allows for an automated, better organized routing and prioritization strategy of inbound inquiries to specialized agent queues based on common and resolvable problem types.
Effective Response Strategies: Better Agents = Better Responses
Customers are very sensitive to poorly crafted social engagements. Social agents need to be well trained and highly skilled. In the social world, poor responses have the potential to go viral. A traditional voice agent that misspeaks limits the company's liability to the one customer to whom they're speaking to. A mishandled customer interaction in the social environment has a far greater potential for widespread negative impact.
Solve this problem in the screening and hiring process. Seek technology-savvy agents with excellent written and social communication skills. The social agent needs the ability to understand colloquial expressions and slang to best serve customers via the web. Social media can be executed in offshore environments at cost-effective rates, and will evolve to be location agnostic as the channel matures. Text-based channels of interaction, both social and chat, are free of language, intonation and accent-related issues that can be easily detected in voice-based customer care.
Return on Investment
In addition to the experiential consumer advantages of robust web engagement, social media-based customer care delivers a solid and measurable return on investment. This is typically calculated by comparing the cost of a social interaction against competing channels of customer interaction. It's commonly believed that email-based customer service delivers the lowest cost and highest ROI. Agents can typically handle 30-plus emails in an hour compared to six to eight phone calls per hour. Clearly, the calculus here isn't as it appears on the surface for most use cases.
Despite the fact that a greater quantity of emails can be handled in less time, it frequently takes three emails to five emails to fully resolve a customer's inquiry. In some cases, the customer gives up after the initial email and defects to the voice channel — typically the highest cost-per-interaction channel. Now the ROI calculation becomes more complex as it's both the sunk cost of servicing the unsuccessful emails and the eventual phone call combined. Plus, the customer's poor experience, although difficult to quantify, is a factor.
Here's where social customer care really shines. Social agents can typically handle more interactions per hour than traditional voice-based channels of customer support. Since it's immediate, customer issues are often resolved in a single interaction and, most importantly, within the customer's chosen first channel of interaction. It's verifiably less expensive than the voice channel and the frustrating email process, and customer satisfaction rates improve measurably. The overall social support model delivers a far greater experience and the net ROI is much higher. Bottom line: Social media customer engagement enables retailers to meet the consumer in his/her desired channel, while reducing support costs and improving the customer experience.
Despite the fact that social customer care is still in its infancy, continuous innovation will influence observed practices as available technologies and increased customer expectations take hold. Video use cases are exploding and rapidly gaining traction faster than most other channels. In the future, video, social media and other technologies will likely further create a paradigm shift in customer care. How-to videos are already common and popular. In the telecommunications industry, for example, videos help explain complex bills to customers and prevent unnecessary, expensive support calls.
In an industry that had not previously experienced a fast pace of innovation, the state of the art is rapidly evolving. Millions of customer interactions are taking place every day on social media sites, customer support forums and online communities. Retailers that are effectively resolving customer inquiries via social media are increasing satisfaction and reducing costs, all while meeting ever-increasing customer expectations about how customer care will be delivered in nonvoice channels of interaction.
John Bryson is the director of product management for Sitel, a global customer care provider.