Nearshore Americas
social media customer service

Navigating the Risky Waters of Social Media Customer Service

If you’re planning to offer up a true omnichannel experience, be aware that initializing social media customer service will not be plain sailing.

In the world of Twitter and Facebook, Millennials are your core audience, and they hold the power to make or break a client brand with just 140 characters and a click of a button. So before taking the plunge into this relatively uncharted territory, consider the cultural, technological, and educational challenges that await you.

Regional Cultural Divide

The main issue in delivering social media customer service in the Americas is the sheer variety of cultures. From Canada down to Argentina — and even across the many states in the U.S. — each area has its own particularities in the way people communicate and their expectations for customer service.

Andre atento social media customer service
André Barreira, Global Solutions Director at Atento

Spanish multinational BPO provider Atento is tackling this challenge primarily through the use of technology. “We have three strategies to attacking the cultural divide in the region,” explained André Barreira, Global Solutions Director at the firm. “The first is to build an analytical customer database to identify common behaviors and wordings in each market. The second is the continuous training of agents to enable their ongoing understanding of these cultures. And the third is the utilization of a series of robots that can tell agents the best answers to give based on the scenario they face.”

Using Data to Predict Customer Behavior

Big Data is an indispensable tool for the journey to true omnichannel, but also contributes to the second biggest challenge: integrating that data into one representative overview of the customer. After all, it’s the way you use the data that determines the success of your social media customer service channel.

In order to track multiple engagements across different channels, U.S. firm Alorica relies primarily on the right technology platforms. “Miscommunication is a risk in any medium, but especially on social media platforms that limit words and characters,” said Janey Sherman, Director of Technology, Client Solutions at Alorica. “It’s important to deploy a CRM solution that handles all types of interactions within one platform. This way agents get a 360 degree view of customer interactions and histories with the brand in order to provide a complete and successful service experience.”

Early Days

Global BPO provider Qualfon believes that one of the biggest challenges for social media customer service is that it is still developing, so the learning process is ongoing.

Nickola Hubiak, VP of Client Relations at Qualfon
Nickola Hubiak, VP of Client Relations at Qualfon

“There’s a demographic of customers now that want to contact us more through social media than typical email or voice,” said Nickola Hubiak, VP of Client Relations at Qualfon. “If customers are using social media to contact us they definitely don’t want to call in or send emails, so we need to give agents complete access to each social media channel in order to provide the right service. The rest of our customer base are those who call first and then go to social media if they didn’t get what they wanted from the call.”

Some customers will occasionally take their complaints or queries to relevant blogs, so Qualfon monitors the most influential ones for its clients as part of its service. This is primarily to inform the client of what is being said, but also to provide support within the blog, reducing any misinformation that might be spreading.

Janey Sherman, Director of Technology, Client Solutions at Alorica
Janey Sherman, Director of Technology, Client Solutions at Alorica

Alorica has dealt with similar challenges: “What is different with social media is that customers expect a relatively quick response from brands,” said Sherman, explaining that the capability to react in a compassionate and helpful manner within a few minutes is key to maintaining good relationships with consumers. “In addition, helping brands with little to no social media experience understand what makes good social media customer service policy is paramount to being successful in this medium.”

Nuances in social media are wildly different to traditional channels, meaning that it’s vital to execute a detailed training program and set clear operational procedures, according to Sherman, who has one final piece of advice: “Employing monitoring technology that can catch your brands’ names where @ mentions are not used can save an interaction from becoming delayed and problematic,” she said.

Brand Sentiment & Reputation

Maintaining the brand culture of the client is the third biggest challenge in the world of sourced social media support, as most companies have spent many years developing a reputable name for themselves. This mainly comes down to the creation and deployment of solid policies that help agents stick to the brand’s message, and then disseminating it through thorough agent training programs.

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“This is definitely not easy,” said Barreira, explaining that the agents that manage social media at Atento are completely different to those managing voice channels. “There first needs to be a specific profile in place to hire the right agents, but then it comes down to training, training, and more training.” This training is usually complimented by a brand awareness strategy and experience agents from the client company beforehand, in order to ensure the right message is communicated from the very beginning.

Hubiak explained that Qualfon’s approach is to first ask clients exactly how they want their brand voice to be communicated over social media customer service channels. “Once that has been outlined, we work it into the training, so agents get to learn what it sounds like very early,” she said. “After a few queries have been resolved, we perform a quality check to see how the customer responded to the agents’ replies. Furthermore, we don’t bring anyone new into social media support; the agents we use are always the most tenured agents for those clients, meaning they already have a good understanding of the client culture.”

As risky as the waters of social media customer service may be, the importance of these channels continues to grow, so companies should be preparing to jump in and swim before they soon get left behind on the shore.

Matt Kendall

During his 2+ years as Chief Editor at Nearshore Americas, Matt Kendall operated at the heart of both the Nearshore BPO and IT services industries, reporting on the most impactful stories and trends in the sector.

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