Your company should be helping customers on social

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Consumers under 35 spend almost four hours per day on social media,1 and more of that time is being spent engaging with brands. Our research has shown that the volume of tweets targeted at brands and their Twitter service handles, for example, has grown 2.5x in the past two years.  Similarly, the percentage of people who have used Twitter for customer service leapt nearly 70%, from 22 to 37% from 2013-14.2 McKinsey’s analysis shows that 30% of social media users prefer social care to phoning customer service.

This is happening across age groups and income brackets: 17% of people older than 55 prefer social media over the telephone for service, and nearly half of people earning more than $200k per year prefer social media over live interactions for customer service.3

So how can companies increase their ROI of social media customer service? In our experience, the best companies are building up their social media capabilities to capture value by focusing on doing two things well: building a social media to increase relevance  and focusing on complete customer care.

The most successful social media interactions are personal, genuine, and relevant. To scale that connectivity requires integrating social media data into your CRM system. Some retailers have been able to increase sales conversions 10-15% by tailoring their social media content based on customers’ previous purchases, according to McKinsey research.

Building an effective social CRM requires companies to:

Link social media and CRM data. Account numbers and customer IDs are easy to track, but linking social media handles with your internal account numbers isn’t as straightforward. The best companies find creative ways to get around this hurdle. For example, one telco uses a survey following customer service interactions on Twitter with an opt-in to match a customer’s ID and Twitter handle. And a leading hotel chain asks customers to direct message their account number so the company can link the social handle to their account in the brand’s CRM system. Small incentives (such as discounts or coupons) can encourage customers to provide this information.

Gather and track the right information. Social media is in effect a massive focus group that can provide intelligence about brand perception, services, competitors, and potentially disruptive trends. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by it all, so companies should prioritize gathering social data that indicate trigger events. These signal the moment when consumers are most open to shifting purchase behaviors and preferences. Creating keywords for life events and interests (e.g., “marriage,” “new school,” “change of jobs”), and then actively tracking them, can help you better tailor interactions with customers at key moments.

Keeping up with all of these social media interactions is challenging, but it helps to have a clear focus on the metrics that matter, to both the customer and the business, such as first response time, time to resolution, customer satisfaction (collected through surveys), and in-channel resolution. We’ve seen when companies do this well, they can resolve over 95% of issues through social media, while maintaining customer satisfaction levels above 90%.

Put in place processes to act on the insights. Some 72% of people who complain to a brand on Twitter expect an answer within an hour. Companies have to develop guidelines for how to act when a particular event occurs. For example, if a customer tweets about an upcoming trip but hasn’t yet purchased a flight, the airline can turn to its social CRM program to find out that this person is a priority member, and say, frequently tweets about craft beers. If the airline has guidelines in place about how to respond and what offers can be made, the people managing the airline’s social media can respond with a personalized message and a free beer coupon to help drive the customer to action. And one wireless carrier looked at customers’ social media complaints about poor service to predict churn. Employees knew to flag these “at risk” customers and reach out proactively to resolve issues. The firm reduced churn in one quarter by 50%.

Responding to customer care issues over social media can cost as little as one sixth of a call center interaction while generating higher levels of customer satisfaction. But Twitter data shows that nearly 40% of customer tweets never get a response from the company.

This article originally appeared on the HBR Blog network site

  1. "Socialogue: The Most Common Butterfly On Earth Is The Social Butterfly," Ipsos, January 2013
  2. Jacobs, Ian, "Brief: Take Social Customer Service Beyond Your Own Walled Garden," Forrester, February 2015
  3. "Infographic: Your wealthiest customers want service on social media," McKinsey on Marketing & Sales, December 2012