Customer experience in the age of social media

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Every company wants to provide good digital customer experience (CX in branding circles), but they need to be aware that the expectations of modern consumers are evolving. How can they adapt to this new, more even-sided partnership between business and consumer?

Answering the call

In a world where social media has the power to coerce the decision-making of even the world’s largest brands, how can those responsible for small- and medium-size businesses keep customers satisfied and coming back?

Consumers live on their smartphones using social media apps like Facebook and Twitter, and expect to be able to do just about anything easily on them, including finding out about your company. Designing a total experience for your customers that starts before you even know them can help you win business, differentiate and compete.

Results from Adobe’s recent Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing: The Quest for Mobile Excellence highlight the fact that 51 per cent of big brands say they’re measuring engagement and return-on-investment as part of their mobile marketing, but this statistic is informed by responses to campaigns rather than customer service. Another recent report by Econsultancy, the digital marketing publication, shows that more than half of customers expect brands to respond to communications by social media platforms within an hour of posting.

For many companies though, being on call twenty-four hours a day simply isn’t realistic. But there are ways to overcome this obstacle, from the simple – like being clear about when and how customers can expect responses – to more sophisticated means, such as using automated responses, ‘asynchronous messaging’ and ‘decision engines’.

Emerging assistance

Asynchronous messaging is becoming increasingly available to customers via platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp for issues that a service representative is unable to fix immediately. It’s a logical evolution of live messaging, which is often powered by those windows that pop up on a range of websites – from banking and insurance through to Amazon, where it arguably took root – and ask questions starting with ‘How can I help you today?’.

Asynchronous messaging enables brands to keep the conversational feel of live messaging, but to resolve more complex problems. Instead of helping a customer organise an immediate refund, for instance, asynchronous messaging might give a customer service representative the additional time needed to research and recommend an alternative product.

If you’ve looked for a new broadband package, mortgage or mobile phone in recent years, you’re likely to have encountered what are referred to as decision engines, which help guide you through the product-selection process.

Investing time and resource into getting these ‘user journeys’ right can mean better sales rates for any ecommerce offering you might have, as well as more qualified enquiries coming through to you. And the data accrued can be used to build insights into your customers’ behaviour, which can help you understand what it is that potential customers are most interested in.

The personal touch

There are questions to face about how your company’s brand itself is articulated through these new forms of customer service. Processes that team man with machine seem to offer the best way forward. To get the most from them though, services that are able to plug in directly to your internal systems are essential.

Ultimately it’s those at the controls who determine the impact of customer experience tools. Marketing and messaging software don’t remove the need for good customer service but they risk brands thinking they can get by offering less in terms of what customers actually want: dependable, informed and considerate assistance. The trick is to use digital tools to improve service and get closer to your customer rather than have them keep you at arm’s length.

Three steps to providing great online customer experience:

  1. Ready your troops – Wherever you find yourself facing your customers is the most personal articulation of your brand, and the point at which you’re most likely to encounter conflict. Staff need to be well-trained with clear consistent communications and policies, flexible enough to be able to make decisions that make a difference to a customer, and be able to do online what it can do in person or on the phone.
  2. Equip for success – As well as good training and the authority to use their own initiative, your frontline teams must be supported by field-ready equipment, whether that’s marketing software that helps you send and track email activity, active social media profiles on customer-service friendly sites like Twitter and Facebook, or commissioned translation services for overseas customers.
  3. Read the land – The customer feedback you’ll gain from CX is invaluable, but you need to not only gather data but have the ability to analyse and understand it. Off-the-shelf analytics packages, software that connects your internal database to your customers’ online activity, or simply a staff member competent with data-interrogation programming languages like SQL all provide ways of harnessing your data.

To get a better understanding of how you can improve customer experience in your organisation book a complimentary Exonera Review.