Insight
Opinion

Social customer service: the three stages of maturity

On April 6, 2008, when Twitter was barely 2 years old, Frank Eliasin, a manager with Comcast’s customer support team launched Twitter’s first-ever dedicated customer support handle, @ComcastCares. A somewhat radical strategy at the time, Comcast’s move to social proved to be the first step in a journey towards embedding social into their customer experience.

Today, millions of people come to Twitter to express their thoughts, experiences and opinions –  making Twitter one of the top channels where customers engage with brands, including airing their customer service woes. Offering some level of social customer service just makes good business sense.

In my work, I spend a lot of time talking to and educating companies on the potential of Twitter data. When it comes to social customer service I’ve observed that most companies fall into three stages of maturity.

 

Stage 1 – Emerging

Many companies begin providing social customer service almost accidentally, as a result of their social media marketing efforts. Customers find their social marketing channels and concerns flow in. Conscientious marketers do their best to direct these incoming service issues to the right people so they can close the loop with a response. But a lack of clear ownership means messages occasionally fall through the cracks, and there is very little performance tracking on customer service interactions let alone service-level agreements (SLAs). The focus tends to be on “best-effort” and it’s common practice to deflect the incoming customer service enquiries to other support channels such as phone or email.

Companies at this emerging stage of maturity would benefit most from clear guidelines accompanied by staff training for interacting with customers on social media. In addition, a good social media management tool would go a long way in preventing things from falling through the cracks; improving social media response times while also facilitating better cross-team collaboration.

 

Stage 2 – Established

At this stage of their social care journey, businesses have fully adopted social customer service as an equal to established channels such as phone, email or chat. With clear guidelines in place, one or more trained agents are dedicated to resolving social enquiries on the originating platform (versus diverting to phone or email). SLAs such as First Response Time and Time to Resolution are in place and monitored. A social care tool is in use and with it, defined routing and approval workflows.

Many businesses stay at this stage and feel satisfied that they are getting the job of social customer care done. They are responsive and their customers are appreciative. Why change anything? But, by not looking to further innovate and mature their program, they may be missing out on an opportunity to create deeper value for both their customers and their business.

 

Stage 3 – Innovator

In the third and most advanced stage of social care maturity, businesses shift from social adoption to social innovation. They are proactively promoting social (including messaging) as a channel where customers can receive expedited customer service. Customer experience delivery is driven by ‘social engagement centers’. Part marketing and part care, these “centers” are designed to not only resolve customer issues but to also proactively engage with the public on topics and events of relevance to the business. They blend human interaction and automation (such as bots) into a unified service experience and are able to collect real-time Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) feedback. Their social media suite is integrated with other critical systems allowing for more holistic customer visibility to enable personalization. They know who their customers are, the issues they’ve had in the past and how they’d like to be treated.

Businesses in this stage see their approach to social as a true differentiator and source of competitive differentiation. They have adopted an innovation mindset and are quick to adopt best practices and benchmark themselves against their peers. Crucially, they have senior leadership buy-in who practice what they preach, actively engaging with customers.

The social customer care journey

Over ten years have passed since @ComcastCares went live. Their social care experiment has grown from handling a few thousand conversations a year to well over 50k a month, and social customer service has become an integral part of the company’s customer experience. Quite a journey!


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Joe Rice
Joe Rice
Joe leads Twitter’s Developer & Enterprise Solutions group based from their London office. His team helps organizations gain actionable insight from Twitter data and supports the ecosystem of partners that serve brands. Joe mainly tweets about economics, politics and satire about economics and politics. Follow him @josephlrice More content by

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