Bitesize Buzzword - Social Customer Service - Ben M Roberts

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This week’s Bitesize Buzzword is: Social Customer Service.

Welcome back to ‘The Marketing Buzzword Podcast’ by Ben M Roberts. In this Bitesize Buzzword episode of the podcast, Ben helps to debunk and demystify the term: Social Customer Service.

In this episode Ben will answer the questions like; What is social customer service? Is it relevant to my business? What are some of the misconceptions around it? How can I add it to my marketing strategy?

If you missed it, make sure you check out episode 1 of the podcast where Ben talks to Dan Gingiss – formally of McDonalds, and now VP, Strategic Group at Persado – all about Social Customer Service and his book ‘Winning at Social Customer Care

Dan Gingiss - Winning at Social Customer Care Book

Keep scrolling for the full transcript of this episode . . .

Hello and welcome to the Bitesize section of the Marketing Buzzword podcast! Aptly named, Bitesized Buzzword. I’m Ben Roberts and in these Bitesized, snackable episodes, I will be helping you to look deeper into what a specific marketing Buzzword means and whether it is or isn’t important for your business, and if it is then how you can incorporate it into your marketing strategy. This week we’re going to look into the buzzword ‘social customer service.’ And this takes some of the learnings from the first podcast with Dan Gingiss. So in this episode we are going to define the term, then we’ll talk about some of the misconceptions around the term, then look at the relevancy to your business, and then we’re going to look at how to implement. So, what is social customer service and what does it mean?

What is Social Customer Service?

Well essentially let’s look at this term. Basically social customer service is a 21st century way of looking at customer service. If you leave out social, you’re just left with customer service, so it’s customer service in a new digital age. So you have a lot of new channels and challenges and it’s customer service is now open, so as Jay Bear talks about in his book Love Your Haters it’s a spectator sport these days, so customer service is no longer closed and private to a very small number of people, your customer service is on show for the world to see. So social customer service is how you can actually be out there ahead of the game, and be out there with your customers before they start putting negative things out there. Essentially no brand is perfect. So we’re looking at good, high quality customer service and translating that into a new, modern world. So, the one thing I mentioned was different is the platforms. So obviously the platforms are social media focused, hence the name social customer service. Now the problem with that is there is no more hiding.

The platforms

Before, customer service used to be done hiding behind an email inbox. You could send an email and it would take days to reply. That is no longer the case. The world has changed. And it’s a case of now when a customer expects to send you a query through social media, they expect you to reply within minutes. And these are within the public domain. People can see this, they can see whether you’re replying or not. This is why social customer service is more important because if customers are asking you questions online, and you’re not even replying. Potential customers and current customers will see that you’re not dealing with queries online and it makes it seem as though you don’t necessarily care about your customers. That may or may not be true but if your customers are online you should probably consider it. And though these platforms are in the public domain, there’s no hiding anymore, that sounds like it’s quite a scary thing but actually no, it’s not because you can monitor so much more because you can now monitor what customers are actually saying about you without them actually saying them directly to you.

Now, before as a company, you had no clue over what people were saying and you’d have no idea what they were saying about you and it’s really hard to control your reputation, whereas now you can actually have tools that will help you listen to what your customers are saying so you can decide to engage or not or you can just actively listen. And that will help you perform a better customer service in the future. So that’s some of the differences in the platforms.

The exposure

Also the exposure. So this is really linked with the platforms, but actually you’re on social people don’t just post stuff there and ask you a question, they can also share things, they can tag people in it, so it’s not just saying ‘I’ve had a bad experience here and hope that people can see it,’ they can physically direct to certain people saying ‘look at this company they’re doing great things or they’re not doing great things.’ Social customer service looks at helping you to manage that exposure. It helps you show that you are doing good, it shows that you’re caring about your customers, it shows you are actually engaging with them and trying to help your following because actually you as a customer centric business are actually trying to do the best to hear. Yes, you’re not perfect and people don’t expect you to be perfect, but they expect to see you care and that effort brings reward and that’s where social customer service comes into play because you’re acting in the public domain, where your customers are dealing with their complaints, questions, queries, whatever it is and they’re all in the public domain. So you’re not trying to deal with everything offline and shoving it away and trying to hide like an ostrich trying to bury it in the sand, you’re actually out there dealing with things.

The tools

Now there are loads of different tools which leaves platforms and exposure sort of elective. And we seen a massive growth in the number of tools and they have a massive amount of functionality. In terms of functionality you’ve got things like Zendesk, Zoho, Sprinklr, Fresh desk. You can even look at different tools, like you’ve got social baker, you’ve got all these different listening tools like Brand 24, Brand Watch where all these different listening tools engagement tools, customer service tools – there are so many online. I won’t go into them all in this specific episode, but it is important that you know there are massive numbers of tools out there and if you want to find out more you can message me directly at and you can message me and I’ll share with you the sort of tools that I’ve used and I really enjoy and recommend but I’m not going to go into it in this specific episode but I’m more than happy to share that with you.

What are this misconceptions and errors made around Social Customer Service?

Now, what is social customer service NOT, and what are some of the common misconceptions and errors around it and so on? Now, social customer service is not the solution for all products. So if you have a really poor product and people online are complaining about you online saying that the quality of your product is poor, social customer service isn’t going to save you. Yes, it may help and appease some people but it is not going to save your business. So I’ve seen people saying ‘but I’m just getting so many negative reviews on what I’m doing and the quality, I need to start speaking and engaging with them online!’ Great, that may help but it isn’t going to solve the problem. So don’t think that social customer service is a solution to a poor product. And it’s also done half-heartedly for some, I’ve seen so many going in and doing it in little bits here and there – you’ve got to go all in. By that I mean you need to have someone who is regularly monitoring and looking at these things. It isn’t something you can monitor for a week or two and then ignore for a week or two because people can post all the time, any time online. You need to have people dedicated to it or you need to have different people who are at least going to be tracking and monitoring it all. It’s not something you can sort of do on a whim and hope that it will work out, you can’t do that. Also it’s not fully doable with machines and automation: you need to be a human. People have empathy, relate to people, and be considerate. At the end of the day, we all make mistakes, we understand certain errors people make and you have to be human, you have to be understanding about these things. It’s not just a case of setting up a chat bot that will deal with every single query you have, you need to be human about it – that is really important and I’m seeing this way too often – people setting up a chat bot or just trying to sound robotic in their social customer service. That is not the way to do it.

Is Social Customer Service relevant to my business?

Now you also need to think of the relevancy to your business. On  the flip side, if your business has a really good product or offering, then you need to be doing social customer service. If you are truly good at what you do, social customer service will help to tell the world about it, and it’ll help you to generate more reviews, more user generated content and help show potential customers how important they are to you. It’s about showing you’re customer centric, showing your customers that you are good at what you do and here’s the evidence to back it up. And actually let them know you care about your customers because you want them to come back, you want to encourage that loyalty because it’s expensive to keep getting people to come back. You wouldn’t be listening to this podcast if you though ‘oh I really hate my customers,’ you actually want them to keep coming back. Also, if your audience is one that lives and interacts in a significant way on social media then you really need to be there. Now, social customer service may not be relevant to your business if your business does not act in a social way. What I mean is your customers are not on social media. If you do not want or necessarily need a social presence. Yes, some companies will do absolutely brilliant at it but not every business is necessarily 100% geared towards social media. And atually there’s no point in you investing loads of time into social customer service if it’s actually not in the best interests of your business, if your time is better served elsewhere because obviously there’s an opportunity cost to everything you do. If you invest time in social customer service you might have to take resources, time, personnel out of another area of the business. So basically you just need to think about that, the relevancy is: ‘is your audience one that engages online? is your target audience there? Also if you get lots of general customer service enquiries, and you get them through all sorts of channels, you need to be considering social customer service. So actually if you’re thinking you get a wide range of issues, through a wide range of channels, answer them on social because if you answer them on social, as we mentioned at the start it’s a public platform, people will be able to see, and you may have even answered their question before they’ve even asked it, which then saves you a bit of time. And actually then you’re providing an incredible customer service without even knowing you’ve provided an incredible customer service, how cool is that? And also,  another thing you need to think about in terms of the relevancy is if your in a purely digital capacity, by that I mean I know we obviously have some offline networking and stuff, but if your business operates in a digital world, i.e. you’re an e-commerce or an e-consultancy, whatever it is if you work in a digital capacity you really should be considering social customer service.

How can I add a Social Customer Service into my marketing plan?

So, how do you actually implement it then? It needs to be implemented from the top-down in your organisation, you need buy in from everyone in there so whether you’re a small business, medium business, etc you need to have it done from the top down and you need to have some structure in place. You can’t just suddenly say ‘We’re all going to start answering social complaints, queries etc’ because you’ll get mixed up, you need to have a specific structure in place that says ‘okay between this hour and this hour, this person will reply, certain queries will be directed to this person and this person,’ how long do you give to reply, so do you set a time in there so is it five minutes, ten minutes – do you have to get it signed off? You need to put the appropriate structure in place. And if you want to know more please drop me a message. You Also need to provide your employees with training  to make the decision. So you train in how to use these tools, about the platform, and how to respond to the customer queries, so using empathy, apologetic, how they can actually provide the answer in how they can resolve the issue or resolve the query that they have, and then you also have to empower them to be able to make the decisions. There’s no good having people out there who talk to customers making complaints who have no empowerment to make decisions because slow decisions mean they will get more angry. You need to be able to empower people, even if only a small amount, a gesture of good will and give them a discretion that allows them to have that empowerment. You have to trust your employees, that’s what it comes down to. Empower your employees by giving them the training and the trust to be able to make the decision to appease the customers and ‘hug those haters’ as Jay Baer advocates, or ‘turn their frown upside down’ whichever sort of phrase you want to use, you need to be doing that. And also told, you can’t do this without tools. Yes you can sit on Facebook Messenger and set up a few bits in there, but you do ultimately need tools – you need to be listening, you need to be considering things. You need to be using the different platforms at your disposal, and again as I said earlier if you want to talk about the tools give me a message and we can talk about the kind of tools I’d recommend.

Social customer service is no longer a choice, it’s a differentiator. Price is no longer the king, a good service is the king, that is how your service will differentiate from others because people can’t copy your service. It’s not for everyone; I’d be lying if I said so, social customer service is an amazing tool, but it isn’t for everyone. Not every business should dedicate all their resources there because there are other things a business needs to worry about. Be human, human human human! People deal with people, people like people, a lot of people trust people, people like speaking to a human, so actually just be human. And also, I need to recommend the Winning at Social Customer Care book by Dan Gingiss. If you haven’t got it I’ll put a link to it in the summary for the blog post for this episode on the website, take a look at Dan’s book on there, honestly I’ve read it twice, potentially three times now – I absolutely love it, it’s in price and place on my bookshelf, I get something new from it every single time I read it.

Thanks for listening, and make sure you listen out for these bitesized episodes, also check out the main podcast, so it’s all in the same place and check out the website, there’s loads more happening on there. Let me know what you think on the blog post and about any other buzzwords you’d like me to talk about, and if you are enjoying please do leave a review on iTunes, subscribe to emails, do all sorts of other good things and I’ll share another bitesize episode with you soon. Goodbye!


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