Social media never stands still. It is constantly evolving to keep pace with changing user demands. And, with 2016 fast approaching, brands must stay ahead of the social customer service curve or risk losing out to competitors who are on the ball and offer a better customer experience. Price is diminishing as a differentiator and the service you provide will help you sustain competitiveness and stand out in often very crowded marketplaces. Consumers are demanding an ‘always-on’ approach to social. Businesses need adapt engagement models to flourish and keep a very tech-savvy customer base happy. But, many are still trying to find a firm footing on shifting sands.
Here at Sentiment we predict three trends will significantly impact the way businesses manage customer engagement in the coming months:
- Closer integration between marketing and customer service functions to create a unified social hub across the business
- Smart data analysis to drive operational business change and deliver wider visibility on social ROI
- Web chat integration to ensure customer support teams can quickly switch between channels
Leon Chaddock, CEO at Sentiment predicts: “2016 is going to be about customers demanding more social engagement from brands and expecting them to communicate across a wide variety of interchangeable channels. They’ll expect data to flow seamlessly from one to the other as they channel shift depending on circumstances, and brands will be expected to keep up. Businesses as always want more visibility from their social spend, while lowering the cost to serve.”
#1 Closer integration
Traditionally marketing and customer service operate in silos, rarely sharing data and customer insights. This usually means the customer experience is viewed in isolated segments, communication is closed and valuable motivational and transactional information is lost to the wider business. Brands need to align internally to better serve customers and leverage insight. Each unit has different goals but they should have a shared objective.
Leon sees even closer cross-business co-operation where one suite of tools can be tailored to serve multiple use cases: “Companies need the right data at the right time, and by integrating a single tool across marketing and customer service plugged into their existing infrastructure, businesses can improve response times and increase satisfaction and retention.”
Who owns social and budget are key here. Every signpost shows that COOs should be responsible for customer care on social. It’s simply another layer in the service stack. They also need to share budget with marketing and other key stakeholders to drive economies of scale. The silo mentality will resurface if different departments use different tools and social data will be skewed by different methodologies and objectives.
What do the numbers say?
Global spending on combined social monitoring, social listening, social mapping and social management tools will rise from $2.2bn to $17.92bn by 2019.
#2 Web chat
Using web chat as a customer service tool will grow in 2016 as consumers tighten expectations around fast response times. People see social media as a ‘live’ channel to find the answers they need and they want to talk to a real person in real time. Integrating chat with your social customer service solution means agents can seamlessly shift between channels and continue conversations without putting the brakes on quick resolution.
Leon sees immediacy and ease of use fuelling consumer demand: “Although still a smaller slice in terms of volume it does tend to deliver higher customer satisfaction ratings compared to phone and email. Part of the growing attraction is the time factor. It provides a medium for customers to interact with an actual person in real time and get an immediate answer to their question. It can also be offered proactively while customers are browsing the website, or used tactically at various key points of the purchase journey, to reinforce the purchase decision.”
Here’s some more sound advice from Leon on integration: “Companies considering web chat do need to remember that it implies immediacy – real-time assistance that can resolve the query or issue. Businesses must consider volume and wait times, and how long it takes to start a chat and first response time after a chat session starts. They should also beware of using it to shift customers to other channels, using web chat to direct customers to call a telephone helpline is unlikely to result in a happy outcome.”
As the trend for customers contacting brands via mobile continues to accelerate, large enterprises are beginning to be inundated by customer service requests via these routes.
The image above shows how important chat apps are becoming compared with volumes of social data. Forward thinking organisations are already beginning to integrate these channels into their customer service strategy. Primarily the move is driven by a need to be where your customers are to delight them, but more cynically it takes some of the heat of complaints away from more public forums leading to less reputational impact.
At Sentiment we are already integrating with these applications, so you can handle social and web chat interactions all from one integrated user interface / experience. Expect to see more from us in the coming month!
What do the numbers say?
Research from Ovum, in its ‘Where Contact Centers Are Missing The Mark with Customer Care’ report, found that just 22% of contact centres offer live chat. Consumer uptake is increasing and brands which do not look at this risk being left behind by customers who don’t want to go back to picking up the phone or sending an email any day soon.
#3 Smart data
Businesses are becoming smarter in the way they use their social data and this is a trend that is likely to continue in 2016. Leon explains: “Businesses are using their social data in ways we could never have imagined a few years ago. What used to be the preserve of specialist consultants or analysts can now be understood by anyone with a mouse and keyboard”.
We see this in the way clients are using the Sentiment app. For example, one client with operations in over 9 countries monitors 32 social profiles, and ad-hoc keyword streams. They listen to, and engage with, social audiences from across the globe. Integrated reporting functionality means we can provide them with actionable KPIs and insight on agent performance and customer interactions, as well as ad-hoc data for resource planning around volume spikes.
Leon adds: “By providing smart, relevant and actionable data we are able to help clients increase visibility on their social mentions and resolve customer issues”.
What do the numbers say?
Research by Dimension Data, in its 2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, found that 53% of contact centres think analytics will be the most influential in reshaping the industry over the next five years, yet four out of ten do not have the tools to analyse data, and metrics on social media engagement are the biggest unknown.
We’re going full circle on this. With greater collaboration between marketing and customer service teams, social data needs to be fit for purpose for multiple use cases. For example, marketing teams need to analyse campaigns and outbound engagement. Customer service teams need to plan around these. They also need to share any content ideas they pick up when talking with customers. Tech teams need to understand how to better resolve problems with online services and ensure customers are updated during an outage. The list goes on and social analytics needs careful attention when shopping for an engagement solution.
What are the key trends you see shaping social customer service next year? We’d love to hear from you @smetrics.