This week I hosted the UK’s Social Customer Service Summit in London. If you don’t know it – it’s an unique event that brings together around 100 brands to discuss developments in social and digital customer service. This year’s attendees includes British Airways, Vodafone, Microsoft, IBM, Toyota, Pret, HP, Telefonica, Citi and Thompson Reuters – to name a few.

As always I took diligent notes, so here are my top 14 social customer service insights from the best-of-the-best…

SCSS16 social customer service training

  1. Are we still social? – With the rise of messaging and chat for service, Martin Hill-Wilson (Brainfood) posed this big question. Highlighting the fact that social customer service has driven up standards dramatically by shining a light on problems, he stressed that going private could be counterproductive and reminded us that “Social is the soul of digital”.
  2. Messaging is multi-channel in a box – Messaging is no longer just about text, it includes video, live video, links, documents and bots/AI, which makes you wonder why we need anything else?
  3. Empathy and trust still matter – Phone still beats most modern digital channels for empathy and trust, yet video, potentially, enables even better levels of empathy and trust. Ever wondered what function emojis serve? Of course! They convey empathy where text would otherwise fail.
  4. Is it the end of mobile apps? – With Facebook’s recent announcement that it’s launching a Bot Store, to enable brands to drop AI bots into Facebook Messenger, so consumers will soon be able to (perhaps) use a simple @ symbol to initiate a chat with their favourite brands, why would they ever download another app?
  5. Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are investing in social customer service – Having spent years without doing anything to support companies with customer service, three of the biggest social networks have suddenly sprung into life, launching a slew of helpful messaging features to make life easier for brands. Perhaps they’ve realised that, before you spend $ on building up your Page/Account, getting service covered is a prerequisite.
  6. Reporting is the key to forecasting – Steven Gutierrez from Transport for London, whose team manages over 130k monthly queries from London’s commuters and tourists, highlighted the value of accurate reporting on social customer service queries. By tracking issue trends and topics,TfL are able to forecast when they will have future problems and take preventive action.
  7. Personalisation is the future – TfL are working to personalise responses and preventative messages, so that, for example, if they know you travel from Marble Arch to Victoria every morning at 8am, they’re able to to Tweet you an alternative route if you’re likely to encounter problems. Smart thinking.
  8. Social customer service is faster and cheaper than phone – Josef Bergman from HP support (photo above) explained how HP has put a cost on dealing with phone vs social media enquiries. Social media costs $1 per contact vs $6 per contact for phone. Overall, they find that their social teams are able to help 40% more customers than their call centre teams in the same time period.
  9. Critical issues still need to be manually prioritised – While HP deals with millions of queries every month, most of which are automatically channeled to the right teams, they still have staff who manually scan through the queue (of social and non-social queries) to identify and prioritise critical issues.
  10. Service is the new marketing – OK, it’s been said before, but HP provided strong evidence for this in their presentation. It was also cited in Twitter’s new Social CS Playbook, in which their advanced model for brands includes pre-empting customers and reaching out to ‘surprise and delight’ fans. That sounds pretty close to marketing.
  11. Does speed of resolution still matter? – In his session, Guy Stephens of IBM highlighted the fact that most brands still don’t respond to a lot of enquiries via social. The leading UK energy company, for example, responds within 1 minute (on average) but only responds to 30% of enquiries. A question of priorities, perhaps?
  12. Social customer service can rebuild your brand – Sabrina Rodriguez gave an excellent presentation about how Travelex, a somewhat tired bricks-and-mortar brand, has started to re-invent itself as a champion of customer engagement by providing responsive and pro-active social customer support. Their #Superstories campaign to engage customers and (private) beta testing group on Facebook being just two examples of how they are bringing customers into the brand.
  13. In digital – you just need to do it! – Asked how she managed to get a global corporation to take risks with it’s brand on social media, Sabrina explained how she did what she needed to do, then asked permission afterwards. It’s a story we’ve heard from several highly successful brands at the summit in the past, so looks to be a winning (if job-risking) formula.
  14. The single customer view doesn’t exist (yet) – When asked whether anyone has cracked the mythical ‘single customer view’ across all channels – phone, email, social, web – the technology vendors at the Summit agreed that we’re still some way off. That said, all of the social customer service providers present integrate with the leading CRM and customer service platforms on the market, so at least at a data level, much is possible.

We’ll be taking these lessons on board and, doubtless, incorporating them into our ever-popular Social Customer Service Training courses. If you’re interested in attending the Social Customer Service Summit next April, please get in touch.

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