There is a revolution underway. A new species of customer is rising from the online environment and flexing its collective muscle. It does not want to be confined by restrictive customer service silos. Its numbers are growing; it has found its voice, and it expects equality with any larger group it comes into contact with.
The Future of Customer Service: The Rise of the Social Customer, a newly-released report by UK social media consultancy ItsOpen, heralds a new era of customer service – one of social power that is transforming the relationship between individuals and institutions.
“The social customer has given rise to the social company – one that listens to its customers in real-time and asks them to collaborate in future developments,” notes report author, Dr. Andrew Currah. “The rise of the social customer demands that companies become more open, authentic and responsive.”
Who is the Social Customer?
According to the Future of Customer Service report, the hallmark expectations of the social customer include:
- A desire to be heard and respected. Recent surveys by Capgemini and Useful Social Media show that social customers expect responses to their social media comments or questions the same day; with up to 20% expecting a response within the same hour.
- The ability to obtain support via any channel. The social customer expects an organization to offer a variety of service options that are authentic, reliable and consistent across all channels.
- A customer-centric approach to interface design. The social customer wants customer service not only on their PC or Mac, but on their smartphone and tablet, as well.
- Opportunities to collaborate with the company. The social customer wants to be able to actively engage with the company, offer suggestions for product and service improvement, and openly share their likes and dislikes (think Pinterest). According to the 2011 CMO Council Report, “Variance in the Social Brand Experience,” after liking a brand’s Facebook page, 60% of respondents want to interact with other customers and share their brand experience; 50% expect to find company or organization service and support.
Sharing information is power when it comes to the social customer. Most corporate organizations have been classically-trained to be resistant to openness and engagement. To evolve into the social company that customers increasingly desire and expect, they must overcome this resistance.
The Rise of the Social Enterprise…
The powerful impact of the social customer has triggered the rise of the social enterprise with CRM software serving as the wheel of its evolution. A recent Capgemini study showed that 60% of companies don’t currently respond to customers via social media, even if a direct question is posed.
As Facebook moves toward one billion users and Twitter nears a quarter of a billion, even companies that don’t currently engage in daily customer interactions on social media need to prepare for the rapid rise of the social customer.
The Future of Customer Service report suggests the following actions:
- Appointment of an executive team to oversee the transition to social CRM, comprising of representatives from a cross section of the enterprise.
- A detailed audit of the social customer to understand the social platforms and individual followers are considered powerful brand influencers.
- Identify all social media channels where the company needs to establish a presence.
- Create a multi-channel strategy for customer service, taking into account the capabilities of the existing operation.
- Update training and communications guidelines to incorporate desired best practices relating to customer engagement via social media.
- Review opportunities to strengthen and streamline connections between the customer service operation and key business units.
- Define the operational specifications of social CRM, incorporating results of steps 3 – 6, as a basis to identify a short list of suitable vendors.
- Evaluate the cost and features of chosen vendors, including their ability to integrate social media monitoring.
- Consultation period with chosen social CRM vendor to plan for the process of implementation and staff training.
- Define metrics to assess the performance of social CRM in terms of customer satisfaction and operating costs.
The Future of Customer Engagement
“The identity and success of companies will increasingly depend on their ability to participate in this new sharing economy,” notes the report.
“The hallmark of the social enterprise is its customer-centricity; the creation and dissemination of information is driven by the pursuit of customer satisfaction. The social enterprise places the social customer at the very heart of its day-to-day operations, and social CRM technologies enable employees at every level to play a more active role in customer service, both indirectly (through internal collaboration and problem solving) and directly (through a multi-channel service hub).”
Are you prepared for the rise of the social customer?