Social Media Customer Care: Whose Job Is It Anyway?

How to optimize social media customer care in your business.

social media customer care

social media customer care

Richard Dumas is the director of product and solutions marketing for cloud contact software leader, Five9. He has led product & corporate marketing for social community software provider DNN Software, launched VoiceXML solutions at Nuance Communications and led marketing and product initiatives for Apple and Sun Micro.

In my last post, I described some of the most common reasons that brands often fail to respond to customer questions and complaints on social media. One of the main reasons is confusion over whose responsibility it is to respond.

Historically, responsibility for social media has fallen to marketing, PR or corporate communications. That made good sense because social was used primarily as way to build brand awareness and encourage word-of-mouth marketing.

However, brands have realized that social media is not just a promotional tool, but also a channel for customer care. It has become crucial to ensure that the right department (or person) can respond accurately and effectively. In many cases, that’s not a marketer, but rather someone in sales, billing, tech support or customer service.

In a February 2014 survey by the International Customer Management Institute (IMCI), 73 percent of organizations reported having an active social presence. When asked who “owns” social media customer service, 52 percent reported that the contact center now owns or co-owns responsibility, which shows a growing recognition that social care can often best be handled by those skilled in answering sales, service and support questions.

Brands do face some challenges when attempting to broaden the scope of social response. Two top challenges include: 1) sorting out organizational roles and responsibilities and 2) developing an effective process for how to respond.

The following are recommendations for how to address these issues.

Build a Cross-Functional Team
Since social media response tends to span multiple departments, it’s important to develop a forum for planning and implementation that crosses departmental boundaries. Many organizations start by setting up a tiger team comprised of managers from the key departments.

Each member of the team will bring a unique perspective. The corporate communications team will know the importance of having a mechanism to quickly resolve potentially brand-threatening issues. Sales can benefit by being able to reach out to prospects when they are dissatisfied with competing projects. Customer success knows that by reaching out to your own at-risk customers, retention will improve. Support and service organizations realize that they need to go beyond responding to phone calls in order to support highly-connected customers.

For smaller organizations or for those that don’t have an established social presence, it is also possible for an individual department to “take the bull by the horns” and develop a process for responding to specific issues. For example, some businesses have set up a dedicated Twitter handle for customer support, enabling that team to listen and respond to support-related inquiries.

Listen and Observe
Next, you’ll want to get a clear understanding of where your customers are talking about your brand and what they’re saying about it. For larger brands, the sheer number of social mentions can seam daunting. According to a Burson-Marsteller study, Fortune 100 brands were mentioned 55,970 times per month on average in 2012.

For many large brands, just finding all of the web sites and blogs that discuss their brand can be difficult. For example, a major airline might not only have a Twitter handle but also hundreds of travel sites and blogs where customers discuss their business.

Many brands start by conducting a listening exercise. As my colleague Ed Margulies outlines in “Social Engagement for Customer Care,” you’ll want to observe what your audience is saying on the sites and networks where they interact digitally. For some, that might be your Facebook fan page and Twitter handle. For others, that might encompass blogs or peer-to-peer communities. This can be done manually, but a social listening tool will help you to listen to a broad set of data sources more easily.