Great customer care starts with social listening

Analysis

Great customer care starts with social listening

When you talk about social listening with most companies, the conversation isn't about consumer perceptions or customer experiences. Instead, it immediately turns to numbers and metrics, volume, sentiment, and influencer scores. And if you ask about social listening in terms of customer service, the focus shifts to managed channels—social media profiles controlled by the brand—where customers can be engaged around service and support issues.

This approach, while helpful, is purely reactive in nature. The company monitors the inbound conversation and, when necessary, responds to specific concerns. In this case, the company can miss the significant potential business value that comes from looking beyond numbers and keywords to discover what customers are actually saying about the business, its products, and its services—and using those insights to inform the way the company engages the customer across touch points. Herein lies a critical distinction: They listen, but they may not actually hear what consumers are saying.

In the same way that social listening can be used to help solve brand or product problems, it can also be used to improve customer relationships. That's why rather than thinking of social listening purely in the context of community management and brand or marketing challenges, it is important to use insights from social research to evolve the way companies understand customer interactions—not just in social, but across service channels. Social listening gives brands the power to identify customers at multiple stages of the decision-making process, and to start addressing issues like lower customer satisfaction scores, escalating call center costs, and loss of market share by creating a truly integrated customer care strategy.

Not many companies are doing this well, which leaves incredible opportunity to differentiate from the competition. A 2014 Deloitte study found 75 percent of respondents said social channels influence their brand loyalty. Research from Forrester shows that if online customer service fails, 75 percent of consumers will simply move to another service channel to look for an answer. What's more, while 80 percent of companies believe they deliver “superior” customer service, only 8 percent of consumers report those same companies deliver “superior” customer service.

To rise above the competition, businesses should weave social listening into their existing customer service operating model. Without doing so, organizations run a high risk of creating a fragmented service channel, having an incomplete view of customer interactions, and ultimately an inconsistent customer experience. Listening is a key to mapping the entire customer experience, not just isolated interactions on social media channels.

As social listening continues to evolve, so do the possibilities for understanding customers and developing innovative approaches to caring for them in an effective manner. Enhancing customer experience often results in tangible, financial benefits. With better customer experience comes operational cost reduction, revenue growth, and customer satisfaction improvement, which can lead to retention and advocacy.

For a more insights, including industry case studies and tips for how to implement an integrated customer service experience, download our perspective: Informed customer care.

Published on October 26, 2015.

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