Social customer service is an overlooked brand-building tool

While the industry turns to bots, marketers need to be more human on social

Many marketers continue to view customer support in the wrong way, and this misperception is costing them dearly.

Typically, companies place customer support services under customer care in their organizations and therefore treat it as a business cost. But in fact, the connections that take place between a company and its consumers during the customer support experience are a brand-building, marketing opportunity.

While the difference in perspective may seem subtle, a shift from approaching customer support as a cost, to seeing customer support as an investment in your brand has huge implications for marketers.

And it’s part of a larger discussion that’s weighing the minds of CMOs – namely, that the majority of them believe they’ll be competing on customer experience this year, according to Gartner.

It’s a powerful marketing vehicle

Essentially, if you create a positive brand experience people will share it online and influence your brand’s “net promoter score or likelihood to recommend.”

And many consumers – almost half – share their contact experience online*. If your brand created a positive experience, that endorsement can be worth anywhere from 2x to 100x the value of an ad depending on your industry category (categories befitting of the low multiple would be low cost and low involvement. Those in the higher multiple would be higher cost and higher involvement.)

Simply changing the way you look at customer service from, “How many inquiries did we resolve each month?” to, “How many positive moments did we generate each month?” forces you to re-examine the role and assign a value it can create.

Positive experiences and speed increase revenue

Not only does a positive experience increase your likelihood of getting word-of-mouth recommendations, but it’s also tied to an increase in long-term revenue potential.

A recent study from Applied Marketing Sciences, showed customers who received a response on Twitter from an airline were willing to pay almost $9 on average more for that airline ticket. If the airline was able to respond within six minutes or less, that customer was willing to pay almost $20 more for that same airline ticket.

Be more human

Automation is another topic du jour. Facebook and Microsoft are touting the benefits of chatbots and automating customer service because it’ll “improve efficiencies while driving down costs.” According to the Telegraph, there’s a 91% chance of customer service being automated, which puts it in the top 50 jobs to be lost. You can see why this looks good on paper to management teams and CFOs. Now think for a second about your automated customer service experiences. How satisfied were you? How likely were you to have a share-worthy positive experience? Dare I say it lacked humanity?

We need to apply common sense and question technology while balancing it with humanity; social service is one of those that requires a human touch and specialist expertise.

Where to start?

Here are a few ways you can operationalize social support and make your efforts more human … and more successful.

  • Burn the handbook. Companies often try to take the call centre handbook and apply it to social support. It doesn’t work and comes across as robotic as the technology that’s trying to replace it.


  • Hire social specialists. They’re used to dealing with people in these channels and understand the nuances of what you can and cannot get away with. They have a knack for delivering an online personality and know how to spot the difference between someone who is simply mad because you haven’t handled a situation properly or a troll who’s taking you for a ride.


  • Empower them. Allow people to make judgment calls and to go the extra step in exceeding expectations or putting a positive punctuation on an experience.


  • Train them on the brand and give them tools to communicate in the brand’s tone. This means helping them understand how it behaves and more importantly how it doesn’t.


  • Reward them. Hold monthly sessions to analyze and discuss what’s working and celebrate the individuals who are doing it exceptionally well.

Social support is the most underrated “content marketing” your organization produces. It delivers bottom-line results by deflecting calls and gives you the added impact of word of mouth, brand loyalty and the potential to charge more if done right. While the industry heads to customer service bots, I’d be investing in how to be more human and efficient in this channel.

Ian Barr is VP of social and innovation at Camp Jefferson, a Toronto-based creative agency


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