Social Media Marketing, Social Media Strategy

Social Customer Service – Why It Matters More Than Ever

Nicole van Zanten

April 3, 2019

Here we are already, the second quarter of 2019. How’d that happen? Time flies, like they say. Among my March whirl of experiences was being on the always-brilliant Jay Baer’s “Social Pros” podcast. You can listen to that here, but Jay also has a transcript available – of course!

But, for the tl;dr version of the podcast, I’m happy to share some of what we discussed in the episode, called “Why Social Media Customer Service Is Changing and What You Need to Do Next.”

Social is More than “Just Social” Now

We talked about why companies like ICUC are so vital in brand management and social identity, because of how social is no longer just about hopping on Twitter or Facebook and broadcasting the brand. Now it’s about managing a crisis, doing public relations, identifying market opportunities, and so much more.

But the scope and possibility of what “social” is, what it can be, and how far its reach is, those are changing every day, so whatever evolutions we’ve already seen, I promise you, soon they’ll transform even more. Put simply, it’s not about crises and messaging and communication – it’s about customers. Earning them, valuing them, informing them, and keeping them.

That’s Why “Chief Customer Officer” Needs to Be A Thing

While “Chief Digital Officers” have been on the rise, the reality is the customer experience transcends just digital, despite digital being a huge slice of that cake now. For me, the important question to ask is exactly what I said to Jay: “how can you impact the customer experience across all aspects of the customer journey, not just social?”

The companies that do that best, across all avenues, from the social experience to the phone experience to the counter experience, they’re the ones who will win the battle for repeat customers, client loyalty, and solid word of mouth. There’s no benefit to having a great social media game while dropping the ball on in-person service, is there?

Consistency is everything for brands today.

Firms that focus instead on just the “social” experience are missing service opportunities. They fail to realize how much service and client care needs to be a complete package over the entire customer journey. In a perfect world, a Chief Customer Officer will oversee everything from service and follow-through to crisis management and social engagement, online and off.

Listening is a Game-Changer

The most valuable, profound thing we do in social and customer service is simply to listen to what people say. I tell my teams, and advocate to our brands, that listening is everything and can radically change how a customer feels.

Jay Baer agreed, choosing this comment of mine as his show-opening soundbite: “If you take a conversation off a public Twitter timeline, let’s say, and bring it to direct messenger and just listen to someone… I would say that would be my one piece of advice, just listen to someone. Because, at the end of the day – if they’re on a delayed flight, for example – they just need to rant. There’s nothing that we can do to make sure their plane leaves on time. What we can do is listen.

That, Jay said, was “simple, solid advice.”

It really is, but I’m not the genius who invented that concept, I’ve just learned how true it is over my years in customer service.

One of the most emotional examples I’ve seen of this is the video of a Thai cop facing off with an armed man raging with a knife, and all the cop does to de-escalate the danger is simply to listen, then hug the man. In tense cases, even when it’s just someone who’s inflamed over a lacklustre dining experience, most angry, frustrated people who suddenly feel they’ve been heard have an emotional shift, because they feel validated for all that they’ve just expressed.

If you only do one thing better tomorrow, listen. Do it in your work day, with your team, with the public, with people who serve you, and even do it at home with your family and friends. Watch how much it impacts your ability to truly connect and have meaningful experiences.

Service Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All T-Shirt

Whether it’s providing customer service, doing social listening, engaging with consumers, or simply putting a branded message out there, we’ve learned there is no generic, plug-and-play roadmap to success. There are some universally-applicable listening/engaging methods that can work, but we find strategies need to be tailored to every situation, every brand, every industry. What works for Starbucks won’t work for a pharmaceutical company, who may need to incubate strategies for up to six months just to ensure best practices and due process.

Turning to another company’s strategies in hopes of riding their coat-tails to success just doesn’t work. If you opt for the same-same-but-different method of branding your public identity, you’ll lose the finer details of why consumers should bother choosing you or maintaining loyalty to you. Be different, be you.

And So Much More

The conversation between Jay Baer, Adam Brown, and me is literally 10 times as long as the copy in this email. We talked about chatbots, and “dark service,” and going one-on-one with messaging. We dug into the process of how ICUC has “service pods” for our clients with brand-dedicated experts, and how we never make important decisions unilaterally, that it’s always a team decision on responding to situations.

We chatted about the joy of “surprise and delight” marketing, like how we’ve built enough trust with our brand Kimpton Hotels, so we can jump into their CRM and help deliver a cost-effective but touching and highly-memorable bit of extra service for their guests, and why that level of trust needs to be earned over the long-haul (and why I’m okay with that).

We even talked about how crazy it is that entire brand platforms seem to be running on phone-based APIs now and how it’s a somewhat-daunting reality. But that’s still only some of what we talked about.

I hope you’ll check out the podcast or the transcript and find some inspiring ideas to help inform your practices going forward.

Community Management Self Audit Call to Action