Best Practices in Ask / Share Characterization for Social Care
By Edwin Margulies Practitioners of social engagement for customer care will tell you that it's often difficult to properly characterize and then act on social posts. There's much to consider. Take sentiment, sincerity, and the general meaning of content. Based on client input and experimentation, I have devised some best practices for characterizing posts in order to make it easier for agents to understand and act on behalf of customers. These best practices can be put to use programmatically using rules engines or even leveraged as manual triggers. The Ask / Share Sentiment Scale The Ask / Share Sentiment scale is an eight-sector continuum based on the intersection of sentiment and two types of posts. The types of posts are simply "ask" or "share." These intersect with four sentiment types: angry, sad, neutral, and happy (as shown in the diagram). An "ask" is a social post in which the author is posing a question. This question may be directed towards: 1) An individual via private channel; 2) An individual via public broadcast; 3) A group via private channel; or 4) a group via public broadcast. A "share" is a social post in which the author is making a statement. This statement may be anything from a publicized complaint about a person, group or product all the way to a gushing testimonial. As with asks, shares can be sent over private or public channels. The Approach to using the Scale It is a best practice to first establish whether or not the social post in question is an "ask" or a "share." You may be thinking this is easy, but there are nuances to consider. Take, for example: "Wondering if I should switch to a different cell phone provider about now." Now consider: "Hey what cell phone provider should I switch to from ABC?" The first post is not really an ask. It is more of a proclamation that a customer is considering options and may be convinced to switch to a competitor. Savvy social care practitioners will pick up on this nuance and may characterize the author of that post as being an "at risk" customer. The second post is in fact an outright ask, but it could be a cry for help in disguise. Many people will pose public questions in their respective timelines in order to go fishing for responses from vendors and brand managers. This may sound sneaky, but that's why social engagement for customer care is both a discipline and an art! The reason why it is important to first establish ask vs. share is because depending on the perceived sentiment of the author, the characterization of the post content is diverse. It's easier to use the scale when you separate these types. The Ask View of the Scale The Angry Ask. An angry ask is, for all intents and purposes, a demand for service. For example, if you work social care at a cell phone company, you might catch posts that say something like this: "I hate my new XYZ phone. It broke the first week. You guys better replace it for free right now or else." While a little edgy, this post has all the hallmarks of being sincere and honest. It is not sarcastic or misleading. Here, a customer has purchased a product, they are having a problem, they are angry, and they are demanding action. The Sad Ask. A sad ask is basically a cry for help. For example, someone who has new cell phone service and a broken phone might say: "Can anyone help me. So bummed new phone on the blink. I was so excited but now don't know what to do." A sad ask may be a direct appeal by using an @mention of the vendor or just an open ask. Either way, your profiles and key word searches can vector in on these posts so they won't be lost. (Customers love the idea that someone is listening). The Neutral Ask. A neutral ask is a non-emotional question that is mostly posed in a matter-of-fact way. For example, a customer may post: "Anyone know how to change the ring tone on the new blackberry?" These types of questions are ripe for Knowledge Base responses in which the agent can push a URL to the individual that points to an article that answers the question. The bonus here is an agent can educate lots of other people who "heard" the same question - so there is a compound effect. Of course if the answer calls for a more discrete response, a direct message can be used. The Happy Ask. The happy ask is posed by someone in a good mood and usually has buying signs written all over it: "Just signed up for the family plan at XYZ and I love it. Wonder if I can get discounts for referrals?" These types of posts care candidates for automatically filtering and prioritizing for sales follow-up. The Share View of the Scale The Angry Share. The angry share is typified by someone venting or even ranting. In these cases, the content of the post may not look actionable. The customer may rant: "I just hate XYZ. #sucks." The important concept here on angry shares is to try to separate vents from rants. A vent is more like: "If XYZ could get their act together on customer service and actually solve my problem in the first call I'd be much happier #custserv." This second angry share identifies a specific problem and is therefore easier to act on. Either way, your own company's policies that govern how rants vs. vents are handled should be considered. Sometimes the public influence score of the person is considered in addition to the customers "corporate" standing as a valued customer. The Sad Share. Laments typify the sad share. For example, a customer may say: "I wish I had just stayed with ABC. XYZ has been a big disappointment." These are sideways cries for help. Although not posed as a question, laments are an invitation for a customer service rep to come to the rescue. Laments can easily slide into vent and rants if left unaddressed, so it is important to prioritize them accordingly. The Neutral Share. The neutral share is really just an observation. Depending on the public influence score of the author, these observations can carry a lot of weight and may get re-posted or re-tweeted. For example: "Yeah XYZ's plan just kills ABC's in terms of overall value and quality of service." For an influential blogger to say such a thing can cause a bump in customer turn-over, so even though these are not "running hot" or "red" they need to be watched closely. Some modern social care systems have the ability to sort on top voices so you can filter based on influence. This is a useful tool so you can keep tabs on the people other people listen to. The Happy Share. Testimonials are the stuff of happy shares. Here, promoters want to go on record with all their kudos and praise. These types of posts are for the most part spontaneous. But they can sometimes be helped along if your care team is in the habit of thanking customers for their feedback, no matter what the mood. An example happy share: "XYZ is awesome. If you love unlimited data, ya gotta check it." Some social care practitioners will jump to re-tweet such a happy post, but it can be just as effective to send a private thanks. It also avoids the blowback of third parties assuming the happy customer is just a corporate shill. More on Best Practices I recommend that key practitioners in social care meet to discuss this Ask / Share Sentiment Scale. Use a white board or flip charts to reproduce the diagram here. Then go around the room and allow each person to assign a priority to each of the eight squares based on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being a top priority). Once you have established priorities, I challenge you to now match those priorities up to your enterprises business rules, policies and next best action lists. In some cases, you may find that there are holes in your policies or business rules. No time like now to patch those holes based on the priorities you assign to the Ask / Share scale. You should revisit the scale and its associated priorities from time to time and make sure that your policies and the scale are in synch. This is a best practice because it is a good idea to leverage the realities of customer interactions over time in order to put new procedures and service ideas into place. Conclusion By using a simple Ask / Share Scale, you can more easily characterize social posts in order to prioritize and act on them. With modern social engagement for customer care platforms, some of the characterization can be automated, with rules-based triggers to do routing to skilled agents. Even if you don't have a rules-based capability, I urge you to adopt this Ask / Share Scale and put it to use. Consider expanding on it in order to establish your own best practices for social customer care.