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Social media teams – both marketing and customer service – often sit by themselves in organizations, likely because management doesn’t quite know what to do with them. But this is a mistake. Integrating with the core business ensures that the social media team is engaged with other business units to share and act upon customer feedback.

Customer experience and social media are part of a “continuous cycle” whereby they each feed the other. Offline experiences are shared online, and then a brand’s response – and the learnings it takes from customer interactions – are incorporated back into the experience.

There are two ways in which integration with the core business can provide value to a company:

1. Customer feedback, sometimes called Voice of the Customer, can help to improve existing products, services and experiences.

2. Customer ideas and use cases can help the product development team develop new products or services.

Voice of the Customer

We already know that customers are not shy about sharing their opinions in social media. The big question is, what do companies do with the feedback? Responding quickly and resolving problems are essential steps, but they generally only treat the symptoms. Reporting is important to demonstrate operational efficiency and success, but we can’t be guaranteed that the right people are reading the reports.

In order to actually solve recurring customer issues, companies need to dig deeper to find the underlying causes and fix them. Only then will the complaints diminish. Luckily, social media is a great platform to help accomplish this.

When things go wrong, companies will hear about it on social media – early and often. And although they should love engaging with customers, if the social customer care team sits within a customer service or operations group, it is likely going to be held to certain cost standards that will limit the extent to which increasing service inquiries is possible.

Zappos has said publicly that they “embrace long phone calls”  – and famously held an 10-hour, 43-minute extravaganza with one customer  – but most companies are trying to reduce customer service expense. While it is certainly debatable whether this is a good goal or not, cost controls are just a reality of call centers today.

One way that the social media team can control costs – and begin to demonstrate solid ROI to management – is to not only resolve customer service complaints, but to help fix underlying problems and prevent future complaints from occurring. This requires social customer care agents (and management) to have a solid understanding of how the rest of the business works, and which leaders can affect change.

For example, a credit card company might see regular complaints about certain transactions not qualifying for a bonus in the rewards program. Rather than just recording the complaint as “Rewards – Transaction Didn’t Qualify,” if the service team can record the name of the affected merchant, they may be able to identify a pattern and alert the merchant relations team to fix the problem. Maybe a gas station at a warehouse club is showing up as a discount store purchase rather than a gas or fuel purchase on customers’ statements, so it’s not earning the associated bonus points for spending at gas stations. This is a relatively simple fix but it can’t be done by the customer service department.

But if the team recognizes that the same question keeps popping up about the same merchant, they can play a lead role in getting the problem fixed, thereby reducing complaints in the future.

Why is the social media team better equipped than some other customer service teams to do this? Because virtually all of their interactions are in text form, so they can be captured, searched, and analyzed more easily than say, telephone calls. In fact, simple word cloud software may expose keywords that identify problems.

Product/Service Enhancements

One of the biggest benefits of social listening is the feedback you get from prospects and customers about your product or service. But that benefit is completely wasted if you don’t do anything with this critical information. Even negative feedback is extremely valuable because it allows companies to see clearly what's working and what's not working about their product, service, employees, or really any part of the customer experience.

Feedback can take the form of compliments, questions and complaints. All require a swift response, and all can help in improving the customer experience for other customers.

As Jay Baer explains in his terrific book, Hug Your Haters, “Complainers aren’t your problem; ignoring them is.” His advice? “Answer every complaint, in every channel, every time” because “the customer is not always right, but the customer always deserves to be heard.”

Listen to complainers, try to solve their individual problem, then look for the underlying issue – usually a process improvement – that will prevent the problem from recurring. Remember, when customers are reaching out with suggestions on how to improve your product or service, generally it means that they really care and that they're brand loyal. By listening, responding and resolving, your customer experience will improve dramatically over time as customer irritants are removed and customer suggestions are heeded.

This article originally appeared in Dan Gingiss' blog on Forbes

 

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About Dan Gingiss

Dan Gingiss is the author of the book, Winning at Social Customer Care: How Top Brands Design Engaging Experiences on Social Media. He also hosts the Focus on Customer Service podcast, interviewing leaders at brands which are known for outstanding customer service in social media.
Dan's 20-year career, which includes hands-on experience as an executive at multiple Fortune 300 companies, has consistently focused on delighting customers through social media, customer service, marketing, and digital customer experience.

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