The use of social media as a customer contact channel is a prime example of reality failing to live up to the hype.
Back when social media took off in the personal sphere, the prediction was that business use would be hard on its heels, and many businesses moved quickly to put social media channels in place. In 2017 the 38 per cent of people using social media to get customer service was expected to grow. Instead, it’s fallen to only 29 per cent in our latest round of Autonomous Customer research.
Is it time businesses walked away from social media as a customer contact channel?
Using social media to contact businesses has unique rules
Looking behind the figures, privacy — or the lack of it — is the biggest reason social media usage has gone down for customer service purposes. There’s not a huge amount you can say on social media without revealing private information. To get a business to take any action on your account requires verification, and that means sharing personal details that can identify you — and people are reluctant to do that.
Initially, businesses expected social media to be a natural home for straightforward queries. However, consumers tend to do a quick search online instead, taking that function away from social media channels.
Consumers are using social media as a last resort, to reinforce a complaint. It’s easy to hop on and let off some steam by venting your frustrations. In this instance, consumers actually want to share their issues with as wide an audience as possible, and it’s the organisation that usually tries to push communication about the issue onto an alternative, more private, channel.
Consumers also turn to social media to complain because of high expectations established in the early days of businesses using the channels. Originally, businesses mined social media to detect negative messages to respond to in real time. With fewer users, organisations were able to give exceptional responses to issues raised over social media, and word spread. But today, with ‘everyone’ on social media that level of response just isn’t possible.
It’s important to take a clear-sighted view of how your customers are using social media so you can respond accordingly: what sort of issues come through your social media channels? And how can you boost usage and satisfaction with social media by making the process of verification easier and more secure?
Set your social media channels in a whole-company context
Where social media channels are benefiting businesses is as an analytical tool revealing when consumers are really happy or really unhappy. If businesses accept that social media doesn’t give you access to nuanced feelings it can be a useful way to understand the ends of the bell curve of customer satisfaction, and this information can feed into your sales and marketing insight.
Expand your thinking around social media: how can you increase the benefits of social media for your organisation beyond the contact centre?
Although consumers are currently cautious about using social media for contact, there’s value to be had from business social media channels. Discover the insight you need to get your strategy right by downloading our latest white paper, ‘The Autonomous Customer 2020’ or register for our webinar.