Market and service transparency is at an all-time high as brands and agencies try to crack the code in engaging their customer/consumers in the social-sphere. As long as there's been an exchange of currency for products or services, there's been unsatisfied customers. The fact is, the larger the brand or transaction amount, the more opportunity for dissatisfaction. And while tens of thousands or even millions of transactions could take place and a small percentage do not go well, this could amount to what seems to be an incredible amount of negative sentiment in the social channels. This is especially true when working with a brand that has seasonal spikes during the year that can amount to a lionshare of their annual revenue. People are more intense, more is on the line and the chance for errors are higher.
Here at [wire] stone, we've been helping brands work out social service protocols to support their marketing and customer service efforts. The space is evolving rapidly for two main reasons: technology continues to improve, which allows community managers to engage better and more efficiently and consumers are getting savvier by the minute; digital natives aren't the only ones that know how to find and engage a brand when they aren't happy.
Here are some take-away's from our experience and some lessons learned as you or your brand works to engage your marketplace deeper:
- Conduct simulations for your social service methods and processes, when the bullets are flying that is not a good time to be working out protocol. In advance of the seasonal periods, try to anticipate every possible scenario, including flamers trying to bring your brand down in all of the social channels.
- Empower your community managers; give them everything they need to respond to the marketplace in a fast and accurate manner. This includes engaging your legal counsel long before it's needed to recieve approved responses and course of action. This is a tedious and difficult process, but makes it all worth it in the end.
- Assign 1 point-person between your customer service team and the community managers to mediate and be the ombudsman in deciding what to do next. DO NOT make decisions by committee.
- Expect the unexpected, consumers will do what they can to get under your skin. The more emotional your product or service, the worse it will get.
- Use slower seasonal periods to create positive content and sentiment to insulate the inevitable vocal minority.
- Don't fake it, if there is a concentrated period in time when consumers are posting negative content, don't pander and re-tweet or re-post people that say something positive the mad consumers will see right through that and wonder why you are wasting your time doing that and not getting to their issue.
- Be patient and keep your cool, continue to have humility in the process and believe you are doing the right thing in helping them. We all have finite resources and things will go off the rails, continue to let people know you are working as fast as you can.
- Be generous when making it right; when a consumer has an issue use that opportunity to really make it right and they will reward you with positive sentiment subsequently to the negative sentiment they most likely created. Get this wrong and they will ping you again.
- And last but definitely not least, keep your cool. Being difficult to work with when the social and community management team is trying their best to help people, does not make things better.
New ground is being forged everyday in the area of Social Customer Service and SocialCRM. Nobody likes their dirty laundry aired for all to see, but that is the price of the new social web. As the social web evolves, so will the expectations of consumers. We as marketers are seeking ways to use the social web to build value for our brands and having a social customer service strategy should not be an after-thought, it should be the thought.