BUSINESS SIDEKICK

#13: Social Customer Service Is What Your Customers Are Looking For
15 September 2016
00:00 00:00 CC Download
“I don’t think that social customer service is the future, it’s the present. The problem is that brands are still a bit slow realizing that social customer service is the present.”

From today’s episode you’ll learn:

  • what are the pros and cons of social customer service,
  • why social customer service is a great way to gain leads,
  • how to measure the effectiveness of social customer service,
  • what is the future of customer service.

Today’s guest

Paolo Fabrizio
Paolo Fabrizio is a Social Customer Service Expert, Blogger, and Podcaster. Pioneer of online customer service and author of the book ‘La Rivoluzione del Social Customer Service’, the 1st Italian one about Social Customer Service. Speaker at events in Italy and abroad.

Podcast transcript

Hello, dear listeners, here's Justyna, LiveChat content writer. You're listening to Business Sidekick, a podcast dedicated to growing your online business.

My guest today is Paulo Fabrizio, social customer service expert, an author and a speaker. We will talk about pros and cons of social customer service, how to measure the effectiveness of this channel and about the future of online customer service. Enjoy!


Hi Paulo, thanks a lot for accepting my invitation. Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your experience?

Hi Justyna. First of all, thanks so much for having me on your podcast. As for my experience, I'm a customer service guy. Everybody always asks me about social media but I am so old that I started the old customer service staff in the 90's.

You're not old, I'm sure!

Yes, my voice. I feel young inside. Anyway, I started- my very first customer service experience is dated to the 90s when I took part in the first online insurance company meeting. It was the start-up of the Direct Line insurance branch in Italy. It was a very exciting period because we launched the first call centre in Italy.

I've had the chance to cover different roles in different companies - as for customer service like form claims, customer service, sales: pre-and-post sales. Thanks to my expertise, when social networks came in a few years ago, I realised that there was bound to become a new channel for customer service. So I left the company a few years ago, started my consulting career as a social customer service expert.

Three years ago, I launched my customer service blog focused on customer service. Last year I wrote my first book, 'La Rivoluzione del Social Customer Service', this is the Italian title, which is the first Italian book covering social customer service topics. So, that's my life story summed up in a couple of minutes.

Sounds interesting. You're right that social media is so important for customer service because I read that 67% of customers use companies' social media channels for customer service. So you're right that it's very, very important. Maybe we will start from the basics. Can you tell me why business owners should think about social customer service? What are the benefits of it?

There are many benefits but the main are two: the first is increasing productivity of their customer service staff or call center agents and the second one is to decrease the cost of each interaction, saving. Everybody knows that handling a phone conversation costs more or less four or five times more than handling a social interaction via Facebook or Twitter with a customer.

Moreover, if we compare the same lapse of time, for instance, ten or fifteen minutes on average, social agents are able to handle more conversations - maybe five or six conversations, using social channels - compared to the phone channel. That means that we- of course, we didn't have to close our call centers or our phone channels but we need also to be able to serve our customers integrating digital channels in order to provide a seamless experience.

So basically, social customer service is a cost-free channel?

I wouldn't say cost-free because everything costs and it's not that easy to say, 'Okay, let's make an integration.'. When I had to consult my clients, I always firstly analyse their current situation – so, current situation means also starting to understand if the staff dedicated to customer service is enough to be able to handle new channels, to integrate the channels, or maybe it's better to focus on and reinforce the effectiveness of current channels, improving efficiency.

Okay, that's very interesting because many people think that social customer service is just replying only on Facebook posts. Do do you have any tips or best advice on how to implement social media culture in our customer service?

There are many tips that I can tell you. The first one I think about, is to start by listening online what customers are saying about you. Whether you're already present or not with social networks, you need to listen to customers live because they already talk about you, even if they're not able to talk with you online. Just to give you an example, the most famous social customer service company, in terms of success, is KLM Airways.

Not only did they integrate social channels, but last year they decided to integrate also Facebook Messenger. First of all, they noticed that 80% of their customers already use that channel on a regular basis. They were pretty sure that customers were not only willing but they were very glad to use that kind of channel.

After that, you need also to be prepared to integrate digital equipment, digital platforms, of all internal procedures. So, from a customer standpoint it's very easy because you send a tweet and you receive an answer. But behind that, on the back-end, there's a lot of jobs to do, not only in customer service departments but also in internal communication, in-between Marketing, Customer Service, Finance and IT.

That's something we should be aware of. What would be your advice on measuring the effectiveness of this customer service form? Are there any KPIs or maybe any other matrix helping to figure out if this channel is successful?

Yes, selecting correct and proper KPIs is an issue for many companies because- especially in those companies who start from a big call centre, and from that call centre create small social customer service teams. So four or five, six staff - usually tend to replicate the same KPIs than used for the call centre and to those kind of teams but that's not correct.

You need to select KPIs that measure effectiveness and service compared to the specific channels. So, one of the main KPIs is average time with clients, another one- very important, is the response rate. So, if I receive 100 tweets and I respond to 96, my response rate will be 96.

But those are not enough to measure how you are able to deliver great customer service using social- you need also be able to measure how you are effective. So, one of the most important KPIs is first contact resolution. So those conversations that you're able to resolve in just one reply. If I'm able to reply to the first message or tweet in five minutes, that's fine, but if my reply generates three more questions for you, this is the case in which social customer service is not effective. It's also got economical advantages for companies.

You need to be able to be quick to reply but you need also to be able to be clear, concise and effective so that you give and provide customers with relevant information and they do not waste time to write you again.

So, that's why first contact resolution is a very important metric. Of course there are many, many more that need to be set up according to specific customers, clients' goals. If your goal, for instance, is to reduce phone calls, you will apply specific KPIs. If your main goal is to reduce the cost per interaction, you will also decide to add other.

And how about conversions? Is it a good channel to bring more leads?

Yes. Whenever you answer questions, whether it's to current or prospect, you are not only providing customers with service but you're also making marketing because you can reduce the distance between them and the company. So if I send you a tweet and I'm not a customer of your bank and I ask you, 'What are the inner costs if I open a mortgage for my house with you?' and you reply very fast and give me all the information and you've been helpful, I may become your customer, because maybe I just needed that final confirmation.

So, customers compare their experience and leverage because 77% of customers consider online reviews very important for their sales decision. For the buying decision, that's very important. Some of that, consequently, Marketing, Customer Service, most of them need to interact with each other in order to be able to communicate internally and be able to provide marketing information, sell in many different ways and many different moments in the customer journey.

Do you ever care about big companies and would you recommend social customer service for small or medium companies as well?

Well, it's a bit different when we talk about small companies. When I think about small companies, I think about 50 to 70 staff or less, okay? Because you need to make big investments for them, for small companies as for digital structure. There are many very good social customer service platforms that can be integrated but they cost money. At the same time, it's also a matter of volume. If a small company does not receive large volumes of incoming calls, incoming tweets or messages via Facebook, maybe it's not worth to have new channels, especially socially.

Maybe you can work on self-service, improving your website to improve and anticipate customer's questions and provide them with automatic Frequently Asked Questions on your Facebook page, on your website, on your app and so on. Maybe you can integrate and work on improving efficiency on channels, rather than adding social.

I mean, social- because social is considered very dangerous by many companies, because as I said before, conversations that take place on social networks are public. Many small or mid-sized companies are afraid to be able to handle so many conversations. Whether they're direct conversations or customers that talk about your brand, it's harder.

Okay, and here comes the last question. Do you think that social customer service is the future of customer service? Technology is moving forwards. so many people are browsing the internet on their mobiles so will it affect regular customer service?

Well, I don't think it's the future. It's the present. The future, we're already receiving very interesting signals about the future. My view is that brands are still a bit slow realising that social customer service is the present when customers are already asking brands more- not only to integrate just social networks but also to integrate for instance, instant messaging apps. That's why some companies have started to listen to customers and to integrate that kind of app, like WhatsApp, for instance...

...or LiveChat...

Yes, LiveChat or Telegram. That's very interesting On the other side, we've seen in the very recent months, a very strong rise of artificial intelligence. That's what people are talking about. There are lots of companies integrating chatbots and Facebook recently launches a series of chatbots And that's a message, in terms of social customer service.

When we talk about social customer service, we shouldn't focus on social networks but we should focus on the best area of social digital channels that are bound to be integrated within customer service. Artificial intelligence or chatbots is very, very new thing but I think that in the near future,, we'll see lots of development. Just to give you an example: an online digital bank here in Italy already uses chatbots to provide customers with traditional or standard questions.

We're also already working on it and it works!

Yes, and compared to the chart, the traditional chart, which needs the presence of a customer service assistant, it works and provides customers with instant answers 24/7. I think that it's very interesting. Many, many customers service staff are worried at the same time because they're worried about losing their jobs.

Yes, that's one of the concerns.

Yes, that's maybe the biggest concern.

Do you think that it will happen?

I'm not able to say that but I'm convinced that things are changing so rapidly in social customer service that in three or four years we'll see a lot of changes, not only in terms of social, but also in terms of artificial intelligence. What I can say is that a lot of research indicates that many, many companies will see a decrease of incoming calls in the next three or four years.

That's due to the fact that many, many millennials, or even younger people, prefer to send messages, to send tweets, to use apps rather than calling a company on the phone. And that's for sure. That's the only thing that I can say for sure, is that maybe one problem will affect call centres is that they're not able to turn themselves into digital content centres.

That's really interesting. I think I can talk about it for hours but I'm afraid we have limited time so thank you very much for this chat, it was really great.

Thank you very much Justyna. Thanks again for having me and thanks for everybody who's listening.


Many people think that having a social media account is nothing more than hanging on Facebook or Twitter but they don't understand that social customer service is not only about customer support, but also about marketing and PR. In other words, it's a serious full-time job and we should be aware of it.

But if even if you are a one-person company, I think that it's important to open at least one social channel, the one that's the most popular among your customers, because they're already there. So, if you're not trying to connect with them, you're missing many business opportunities.


That's all folks, thanks for listening!

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter to be in touch. You can also show me some love and review this podcast on iTunes.

All the best, this was your Business Sidekick speaking.

#customer service #social media

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