Social Customer Care – Where Do We Go From Here?


Next week, I have the opportunity to chair a Social Customer Service Summit. Speakers will include one of the founding fathers of social care, Frank Eliason, as well as the always inspirational team from Zappos. In preparation for what is bound to be a lively discussion, our Ogilvy team has landed on a question that will certainly spark reflection by many of the participants—- “You’ve built a successful social care team, but what happens now?”

First, some background on how we arrived here.

In March of 1876, Alexander Graham Bell exclaimed in excitement, “Watson, come here! I want to see you!” And so, the world’s first practical telephone was invented. With the first ring, this brought a promise of a new means of communication, and an ability to collapse distance.  Now, flash forward to the present and think about the phrase “call center,” and make a quick word association. Does it trigger thoughts of “back office” or “cost-center?” I thought so…

As someone who has actually worn a call-center headset, I often wonder if the same fate will ultimately befall social. Will it become just another channel? Will customers dread interacting with a brand on Facebook as much as they do dealing with an automated phone system? I would suggest that the answer to that question is quite simple — “It’s up to us.”

Our approach to customer service is at a crossroads. Do we invest in true contact centers because we want to provide a better customer experience, or do we simply ramp up a new care team to quell social media fires? If you’ve already created a small squad of Ninja-Guru-Yoda-Crackerjack-Rockstar-Masters who have been trained on how to listen and respond in social media, then give yourself a pat on the back. In the words of one of their idols, you’ve taken the first step into a much larger world. However, it’s now time to think about social care as part of a greater whole.

Here, the operative phrase is “Socialize the Enterprise”, coined by Social@Ogilvy’s, John Bell. It’s a powerful idea with major implications on aspects of business that might currently be untouched by social, specifically call-center operations and traditional care teams. While we’re certainly not advocating letting all your traditional frontline agents loose on Twitter without proper training, we are in favor of helping clients embrace social principles internally, wisely. For example, we think measuring the sentiment of your internal audience, namely call-center agents, about what’s working and what’s not in their daily interactions with customers is crucial to becoming more social, quickly and effectively.

Here are some key principles that the Social@Ogilvy team think cutting-edge brands have brought to life:

  1. Social is a skill. Social is not a Facebook wall, a clever campaign, or even just a channel. It is a skill that should become fused into your brand’s DNA. Social activities should inform how you develop and market products and then service and retain your customers.
  2. Social is a reflection of how we do business. At some point, many brands decided that the level of customer support they provided via email was actually less responsive than by phone, e.g., “We will try to respond to your email within 24 hours (using canned responses!).” Now, imagine if these same brands had attempted more immediate, personalized email treatments. Wouldn’t they have been better prepared to thrive in the age of the 140-character real-time world of Twitter?
  3. Social demands not just IQ but EQ. Anyone who has ever run a call center knows that it requires quantitative analysis of call volumes, and an in-depth understanding of business processes and other hard sciences. However, it also involves a bit of cognitive psychology, and a ton of emotional intelligence. It’s the latter set of skills that enable a social care team to make the judgment calls needed to carry on natural conversations, while maintaining the brand image.

Why do these three principles matter so much? If adopted, they will allow you to evolve the enterprise, using insight you derive from engaging your prospects and customers. The three steps to making that happen are as follows:

  • Listen and respond to your social care team, just as they listen and respond in social media.
  • Marry social-derived insight to similar data obtained via traditional servicing channels, to form a more comprehensive understanding of the dialogue surrounding your brand.
  • Embrace social principles internally, so you can act upon insight — improving the customer experience, and creating brand advocates in employees and customers alike.

We’re looking forward to meeting all the summit participants, and will report back here with their collective insight. Stay tuned.