Customer service has never been a simple affair, but the rise of social has made it infinitely more complex. Before social, it was the customer service departments, through their call centres, who controlled interactions with buyers. Then along came Facebook, Twitter and others, and suddenly things were no longer the same.
Social has traditionally been owned by the marketing department. It was their job to create campaigns, monitor the response and deal with lead generation. This was good, but customers are savvy and many realised social was a great way to make an end-run around the call centre team, who would traditionally take quite a while to generate a response to a problem or query. Response times for social could be measured in minutes, whereas traditional contact centres could be hours or days.
This created a problem, because the core skills of marketing and customer service are very different. Put plainly, marketing isn’t set up to deal with customer service issues, even as customers are clamouring to have their problems dealt with through social media channels.
This leads to the issue of who owns social? How do marketing and customer service interact with each other, and how do we bridge the gap between the two skill sets and create a consistent customer service experience?
Some organisations have responded by taking the customer service component of social out of marketing and placed it within their customer contact centres. Marketing still retains outbound social responsibility, and the campaigns and lead generation going along with that. Customer service then takes charge of inbound social, including lead generation and customer service queries and complaints.
This shift of responsibility has also lead to new confusions. How are customer service responsibilities divided with the contact centre? Not all agents have the skills to deal with the rapid fire – and very public – exchanges that come with social media. So while modern contact centre software and platforms are adept at combining social with the traditional contact centre strengths of phone and email, not every agent is going to be good at social.
One response is to set up a dedicated social team within the contact centre. This is usually a high-prestige position for customer agents, because they are given more freedom (and more responsibility when dealing with public messaging) that a regular customer service agent has.
A social agent can deal with social queries, but must also work closely with other, non-social, agents to ensure a consistent customer experience. That’s because although social is the avenue for many initial customer service queries, dealing with them appropriately generally means having to take the interaction private, or into another two way channel, such as voice.
The onus is on the contact centre to make sure all agents have access to full customer service histories, so the customer isn’t repeating themselves and feeling as though the quick response they received from a social query isn’t lost in when the communications channel shifts.
So the answer to who owns social is two-fold. Marketing can retain its outbound responsibilities, while customer service takes care of inbound. The trick, for any customer service organisation, is ensuring that the customer has a consistent experience, and their query or complaint is dealt with in a fast and effective manner.