by Larry Mead, Kate Kompelien and Kurt Schroeder
How can your business successfully use social media to engage customers?
Social media continues to rise in popularity as a go-to channel for customers looking to interact with businesses. Where once businesses leveraged social media solely as a marketing tool, today organizations field any number of customer requests for information, support or service via social channels every day.
Case studies for successful use of social media as a Customer Experience tool abound. The Transportation Security Administration is one great example of effectively using social media to engage customers. Their social account, AskTSA maintains a surprisingly robust social media following and offers valuable information to as many as 1000 travelers a day in an engaging and humorous manner.
Unfortunately, for every success story, there are countless examples of businesses falling short of delivering effective customer interactions via social channels. Every day it seems there’s a new story in the media about an organization either failing to hear its customers on social media, or even worse, hearing them and responding inappropriately, or not at all.
What can your organization do to create a successful social media engagement plan? Focus on these key best practices, in use by the TSA and other social media engagement success stories in our blog, Getting to the Heart of Customer Engagement.
Identify the Social Channels YOUR Customers Use Most
When developing a social media engagement plan, it can be tempting to include ALL social media platforms or to create a single, all-encompassing social approach. In many cases, planning an approach for all social platforms is cost-prohibitive, ineffective and frankly, unnecessary.
Instead, consider each social media platform individually. Conduct a review of your customer base to determine which social media platforms they regularly engage with, and which are most likely to offer the best interaction opportunities. You may find that specific platforms are not the ideal interaction channel for your audience. For example, Business-to-Business organizations achieve more effective engagement and customer interactions through LinkedIn than Facebook.
Conduct a survey of your customers for insight into their preferred social platforms. Pay attention to your competition’s use of social media. Ask customer-facing staff members for insight. Engage a CX consulting firm like Avtex for objective advice regarding the best social channels for your business.
Develop Comprehensive Processes and Policies
As with any business or CX initiative, your social media engagement efforts should be carefully planned before launch. Policies and procedures should be in place early, and staff should be trained extensively on all aspects of the social program.
When developing the policies and procedures for your social engagement program, be sure to include details regarding:
- Training: Social media is a unique interaction channel. Take the time to develop a training plan to arm your agents with the knowledge and skills they need to effectively field interactions via social channels. An effective training policy will help your agents feel more comfortable fielding social interactions, improve response time and increase customer satisfaction.
- Agent scheduling: It is important to respond to social interactions quickly, effectively and consistently. Social channels should be closely monitored by your agents at all times, especially during business hours. Creating an effective staff schedule will ensure proactive monitoring of social channels and swift responses to customer inquiries.
- Messaging and tone: Your brand’s identity, policies and data sets should be consistent across all interaction channels. Social media is no different. Take the time to create a guide for agents to follow as they field interactions via social platforms. This is often easier than many leaders think, as much of the tone and messaging already exists for other interaction channels, and simply must be translated to social media interactions. Focus on creating a tone that is professional, polite and consistent with your other communication channels.
- Supported interaction types: Due to privacy, security, technology and other concerns, it may be wise to limit the types of interactions you will support via social channels. Identify the types of interactions your agents will field via social media. It is also important to develop clear procedures to transition customers from social media to another communication channel in the event of an unsupported request.
Listen, Observe and Adapt
Long term social engagement success requires flexibility and a commitment to ongoing improvement. To pinpoint areas of improvement and adaptation, listen and observe.
Listen to your customers and your employees to identify areas of improvement and barriers that can be addressed within your own organization. Observe trending uses of social media by your competition, and in other industries.
Leverage the information and insight gleaned from simply listening and observing to adjust your social engagement approach and plan for future initiatives.