What’s Stopping Companies from Going All-In On Social Customer Service?

By Emily Stanford

Keith Pearce is VP of Marketing for Service Cloud at Salesforce. An industry veteran who got his start close to 20 years ago at Siemens, he’s a firm believer in the transformative value of great customer service — both to companies and to their customers. Recently, we caught up with Keith to get his thoughts on why companies are slow to catch on to social customer service, the keys to customer retention, and a sneak peek at what to expect at Dreamforce this year.

Customers are quick to praise companies that can solve their issues completely over social media — such as through Twitter direct messages. This seems like the exception, not the rule. What’s preventing companies from making social customer care imperative to their customer service strategy, rather than a nice-to-have?

Companies are running into a couple different issues when it comes to truly leveraging social media as a customer service channel.

First, most companies don’t have the staffing models to accommodate social media and not every service agent is savvy on social. So you end up with a small social service team off in a silo with a couple agents that are able to handle complaints from the channels, rather than the entire department on board with tackling social. Additionally, they want to provide a consistent service treatment across all of the channels, instead of preferential service if a customer chooses social.

Second, social can be an expensive channel to manage from a service perspective. Everyone has had the experience of being in a phone tree and no matter how many times you try to press zero you can’t speak to a live person. That’s by design — it costs businesses a fifth of the cost to have the service experience completely automated versus a person available to pick up the phone or answer a tweet. So companies are afraid of leaning more heavily on social customer service and then receiving an avalanche of service requests that are far more expensive to handle. But that’s where tools like Service Cloud come in; we enable businesses to integrate social customer care in the same dashboard as all their other customer service channels so it’s all accessible in one seamless experience for agents.

According to a study from Arizona State University, customer complaints have climbed 5% in the past couple of years, which seems surprising since companies have incredible tools at their disposal to create awesome experiences. Are customers really angrier?

There’s a couple things going on. One is that they have more channels where they can complain, such as social media and additional online forums. The second thing is more companies are asking their companies, “How did we do?” More companies have learned the power of referral marketing and peer influence; we trust our peers more than we trust a business. So businesses are trying to get those referrals and they’re asking people, “What did you think of our service?” That alone has created this mass influx of responses, whereas before they didn’t even ask.

One of the things that I advocate for is that companies really want to talk about their promoters and their great scores, but the most valuable insights a company can get is from their detractors. When somebody takes the time to give input about what they didn’t like about your service, following up with that person can be a gold mine of insights. We treat complainers like our worst enemies, but they can be our greatest allies. In order to get less complaints you first have to get more complaints, and then get to work trying to fix it.

Most businesses understand that retaining customers is more cost-effective than finding new customers. What can businesses do better to boost their customer retention numbers?

Companies that are prioritizing customer retention are often starting with the basics of a customer loyalty program and tapping into that passionate customer base. This is most easily exemplified by airlines that offer nicer seats and earlier boarding for its frequent fliers or fashion brands that offer exclusive shopping events and access to designs first to their most loyal customers.

But businesses that are looking at retention with a wider lens are thinking about how they can bring customers in to help shape the direction of the product roadmap. Additionally, they’re bringing these passionate advocates together in a community and rewarding individuals that go above and beyond for helping other customers. Salesforce does a great job of this with the IdeaExchange, which enables customers to submit ideas that shape how we evolve and improve our products, and our Success Community. We also reward our most passionate super-users by inviting them to become a part of our MVP program, which opens incredible doors for these individuals.

We are around 80 days out until Dreamforce. Can you give us any hints of what to expect from Service Cloud at the big event?

During Dreamforce you’ll see this notion of intelligence become a key pillar of where we think the future is going. Artificial Intelligence is starting to come to life and offers incredible opportunities to learn people’s precise service preferences, and then delivering amazing customer experiences based on those preferences. That’s all I can say for now, but people can expect to see how Salesforce views the future of service and the customer experience, and how you can start delivering that future today.

Check out the interactive infographic for 20 customer service best practices.

Originally published at www.salesforce.com.

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