Top Response Strategies for Social Care
By Edwin Margulies
If you are building a practice for social engagement for customer care, one of the biggest issues you will face is tackling your response strategy. Depending on the content you are "fishing for" in the big, blue social ocean, you may adopt numerous response strategies. These can be based on the varied skills and focus of your social care team. In this article, I will cover the top response strategies for you to consider.
The Approach to Content
There are four basic approaches to dealing with and responding to social content. The first approach is a purely social type of response. The second approach seeks to help customers by pointing them to self-help or knowledge base articles. The third approach deals with channel conversion (e.g. switching over to a chat or phone call). Lastly, but increasingly important, are responses dealing with community support - or pushing customers to the community.
Regardless of the strategy, each one of these deals with how you manage and respond content-wise. For this reason, it is useful build and maintain a knowledge base and to have a library of short URL links to that knowledge base. Your knowledge base is also important in providing links to other channels and communities as described below.
Social Response Strategy
Perhaps the simplest and easiest strategy to embrace is a pure social strategy. By "pure social" I am referring to staying within the confines of the original medium, and not attempting to refer or convert customers out of that medium. Although simplistic, this is a great way to get your feet wet in social engagement for customer care.
Let's say a person posts on Twitter: "janedoe Wish XYZ company were more responsive to my needs. Looking for another provider…" OK this post is a little bit ambiguous because it does not come right out and articulate the actual problem. But it's a cry for help nonetheless. (In the Ask / Share Sentiment Scale we'd characterize this as a lament or "sad share."). A pure social response could be: "@janedoe We at XYZ want to help. We are here for you. Let us know what we can do." Assuming the original author responds to your offer of help, you can now take the message private by asking for a follow, or keep things generic and helpful with an @mention post. The idea here is to establish a presence, show that you are listening, and be consistent in your follow-up.
The key with a "pure social" strategy is that there is no attempt to convert the customer to another channel, or push them to self service, or push them to a community. Instead, the "pure social" approach requires that you stay in the medium and try to answer questions within the confines of that medium. This can be challenging, especially on Twitter because of the character limitations. That's where some of the other response strategies come in. A social response strategy is great for Twitter and Facebook Fan Page personas in which you are disseminating simple, short information such as contact information, venue addresses for events, dates and times for # conferences, etc.
Self Service Strategy
Just like with phone calls into a traditional contact center, the self service strategy to responding to posts deals with either automatically or semi-automatically responding. For example, with Voxeo CXP for Unified Self-Service, you can respond automatically to tweets. Granted, you would want to establish a "bot" persona with a dedicated Twitter handle for automated responses. If you establish ahead of time (or in the bio) that the persona is a "bot," people hailing that handle would expect an automated response. Clearly, pretending to be a person when you are not is a bad practice. But if you set the correct expectation up front, bots can be very helpful to customers.
Another approach is a semi-automated approach in which your social care agents respond with abbreviated URLs that point to knowledge base (KB) articles or blogs. This is an effective approach if the information you want to convey is complex or at least LONG so it won't fit in to a tweet. For example, instead of pushing a long URL like: "http://www.nameofcompany/knowledgebase/customerservice/RMAreturns/article4987" you would instead push: "http://bit.ly/7ut65y."
URL abbreviation is a lifesaver for people using twitter who want to refer readers to a rich source of content. It is especially helpful to have the abbreviation capability to do KB library references built-in to your social engagement platform.
Channel Conversion Strategy
As the name implies, a channel conversion strategy deals with getting the customer to move over to a different channel (i.e. communication medium). The motivation for this cannot be purely selfish or your customers may catch on and resent it. For example if someone complains and you just say "Call us on our toll free number 888-555-1212" you may hear back: "If I wanted to wait in line and talk to your stupid IVR I would have done that."
An alternative to getting folks to "switch channels" is to push a URL to a callback service. For example you can push customers to a page that offers a concierge-like service in which they type in their phone number and when they want to be called back and then your agent calls them back at the customer's convenience. This way the customer does not have to wait in line, talk to an IVR, etc. Of course this is much easier with modern social engagement platforms that have this built-in.
You can also push a chat page URL so the customer can engage in close-to-real time via your chat server. This may not be as hard to convert people to so long as your service levels are tolerable. Chats are still in the "text/spacial" domain so it is also not too much of a leap for someone to "text on Twitter" versus "text on chat."
The community strategy is another conversion play, but it has a softer landing than full-on channel conversion. Peer to Peer Community sites that offer threaded discussion forums are by most considered a social outlet. Most of these are sponsored by a vendor with vendor experts or moderators who are available to answer questions. But the biggest point of a community site is that a lot of the content is posted by peers, not paid employees.
From an enterprise perspective, a community site desirable for a two big reasons. First, a community site builds a bridge to customers and allows them to openly communicate about your brand, your product - but on your dime. It's not "big blue ocean" social, because most of the time community sites are inside the domain of your commercial web site. So it's "company territory." Nonetheless, it is still looked at by customers as being in the "social domain" and it provides an alternative channel to customers to reach out and communicate regarding your products.
Second, community sites have a lot of content that is not created by the enterprise but rather created by customers. This means all of that "free" content is self-generating to a large extent. The result is less cost for the enterprise in hiring and training customer service agents and moderators. The more sophisticated community sites like Telligent, for example, also have rich KB libraries so there's a built-in "self service" strategy at play.
Whether it's pure social responses, a push for self service, community or channel conversion - or a combination of these - your social engagement practice needs an articulated strategy. It is considered a best practice for you to choose a workable strategy for each type of social post you will be responding to and try to establish a consistent type of response for each one. This helps to set the correct expectation with customers and also helps to increase the efficiency of your social care team.