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Getting started with social media customer support

In the past I have talked about some of the challenges for social media customer service programs; scalability, maintaining stakeholder support and defining accepted success measures. These will always exist and a program manager will be constantly reviewing and modifying how they manage the volume of social conversation, roll-up their key performance indicators and share results with their internal stakeholders.

Recognizing these challenges, how does an organization get started with social support? I am often asked for guidance or for a pseudo Getting Started with Social Support by people looking to formalize their customer service efforts in social media. While my advice would depend on their social strategy, the size of their organization, current resources, among many other factors – there are some things you should consider and ask before launching a social customer service program.

Asking the Right Questions for your Social Support Program

Set your vision – Your overarching strategy for your social support team must be set out first. What do you aspire to do? How do you win? Who is your audience? Where do you play and what do you own (internally and externally)? Who needs to be involved, be consulted and approve your plans?

Staffing Plan – How will you resource your support team. Will it live in your contact center? Will the reps be dedicated to social media or will you train a set group that will go between phone, chat, and social? Will you allow outsourced reps to be part of the team? How will you know when you need to add headcount? What skills do your social reps need?

Escalation Processes – Identifying necessary processes up front can allow your team to run smoothly and efficiently. Consider what will your social support team do with feedback? When a major issue arises? When media or journalists reach out? When the support question is more than they can handle or that they can troubleshoot via social channels? How about when they get a complaint? Compliment? The step by step details you need will depend on your business.

Define success measures – By setting your vision and strategy upfront you should know what it means to win for your program so this will help you determine success measures. Is winning driving customer satisfaction? Decreasing operations costs? Increasing customer retention? If your team sits in customer support there are there KPIs for your reps that need to align to the rest of the organization? Will you have a scorecard? And how will the measures help you drive your business and change?

Content and Self-Service – It can be a challenge to answer every question in a short and sweet manner (say in 140 characters) so having a lot of support content to point customers to is very important. Where is your content housed? Is it mobile? Are there gaps? How can you work with content teams to keep it up-to-date? Consider also your branded communities and how it will play a role in your social support program. How will you leverage your community for user generated content?

Guidelines, Training and Best Practices – Setting the stage with guidelines, proper training and solid best practices for your team can ensure you are offering quality customer service with fewer risks. Does your organization have existing social media guidelines? Training?

What specific support training will your reps require before getting started? What best practices do you need your team to follow? Service levels? How do you safely manage properties and passwords (and avoid accidental personal tweets on official channels!?) What is the expected tone of messages posted by reps? What does quality look like?

Property Plan – Depending on your resources, hours of operation, current owned properties and planned service level agreements – you will want to consider how many social channels you can effectively manage. Where are your customers asking questions already? How will you engage on the property as a brand or individual? Does the channel allow private messaging and when will you respond publicly versus privately?

Identify Tools – While you can use free tools or the native applications, depending on the quantity of customer engagements, the size of your team and the success measures and KPIs you have settled on – you may require something more robust. Is there an existing technology being used by other teams? What requirements have you identified for tools – consider your processes and your guidelines and best practices? What do you need to track? Measure?

This post was first written for Social Business News in 2013 so some of the information and vendors may not be around anymore.


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