Making Multichannel Support Simple and Successful

Email. Phone. Chat. Messaging. Customers want to connect with companies over a variety of channels. And regardless of channel, they expect a seamless experience.

Join Matt Price, Zendesk’s SVP of Emerging Businesses, to learn more about how businesses are improving the experience for their customers and reducing costs by integrating new channels into their support operations.

We’ll also be joined by Matthew Grossman, co-founder and COO of Dorm Room Movers, the industry leader in college student storage and shipping, who will talk about how Dorm Room Movers is boosting agent productivity and reducing costs by integrating email, phone, chat and SMS support over one platform.

During this 60-minute webinar, we’ll cover:
● How to boost agent productivity through integrating new channels
● How to improve customer satisfaction with more seamless support
● How to set up new channels quickly with just a few clicks
● Tips and tricks for support leaders to successfully manage multiple channels


Matt Price is Zendesk's SVP of Emerging Businesses, overseeing Zendesk Voice, Zopim, Message and other emerging product lines. He founded the Zendesk Europe office in 2011 and regularly comments in the press and speaks at conferences on the future of customer service in a multichannel world.


Matthew Grossman is co-founder and COO of Dorm Room Movers, the industry leader in college student storage and shipping. Since launching Dorm Room Movers in 2007, right after graduating from college, he and his partner Leor Lapid have scaled operations to over 150 campuses, moving over 20,000 students.



Josh Frank is a Product Marketing Manager at Zendesk where he leads go-to-market activities for Zendesk’s products. He is passionate about helping companies build better relationships with their customers.

A Retailer’s Guide to Getting Omnichannel Customer Service Right

Retail Omnichannel eBook

With consumers shopping in more channels than ever, retailers have been forced to evolve. It's all about aligning your business to ensure the shopping journey is as seamless, quick, and hassle-free as possible.

Still, we all know there are going to be issues as consumers transition from mobile devices to in-store experiences to the web—and back again. That's when having the right omnichannel customer service program in place becomes so valuable. Being able to efficiently and effectively serve your customers in the channels they choose will make them happier, breeding loyalty in the long run.

Download this ebook to learn:

  • How to perform a customer service audit
  • Steps for executing and delivering an omnichannel strategy
  • Tips for optimizing omnichannel service levels
  • From brands doing it right

The Power of Integrated Phone Support, Featuring Dorm Room Movers

Phone support is a powerful way to help your customers. But standalone phone systems, separate from other support channels, can negatively impact support operations. Agents are forced to switch between systems, which makes it difficult to keep track of customer interactions.
 
In this on-demand webinar, hear how Dorm Room Movers, a fast-growing shipping, storage and moving company, switched from a siloed phone system to Zendesk Voice. By making this move to integrated phone support, they created a single, seamless platform for customer communication.
 
Matthew Grossman, co-founder and COO of Dorm Room Movers, and Ryan Nichols, General Manager of Zendesk Voice, discuss how Zendesk Voice helped Dorm Room Movers to:

  • Consolidate software systems, boost agent productivity, and reduce operational costs
  • Gain full visibility into the customer journey and provide more personal service
  • Centralize reporting for comprehensive analytics and improved forecasting

Matthew Grossman

Matthew Grossman is co-founder and COO of Dorm Room Movers. Since launching Dorm Room Movers in 2007, right after graduating from college, he and his partner Leor Lapid have scaled operations to over 150 campuses, moving over 20,000 students nationwide. Building on the success of Dorm Room Movers, Grossman and team have launched SpaceShip, providing by-the-box storage and shipping for anyone, anywhere in the country.

Key Benefits of Integrated Phone Support

Phone support
Despite the rise of newer channels like social media and email, many customers still prefer the immediacy and real-time interaction that’s possible with the 1:1 interaction of a phone call. According to Forrester Research, 73% of consumers have used phone support in the past 12 months.

While many companies are adopting strategies and infrastructure to provide great customer service via newer channels, they are still making the investment in phone support. That’s the good news.

The bad news: too many companies are using phone support solutions that are separate from their other support channels, creating a silo around phone support. Treating phone support as a standalone support channel creates major problems, for everyone involved:

Agents - impacted productivity

  • Agents must switch between separate platforms for different support channels, slowing time to resolution
  • Agents must deliver phone support without a complete view of the customer’s cross-channel experience, making it difficult to provide personalized service
  • Agents must manually enter the details of a phone call or not log the call at all

Managers - limited visibility

  • Managers lack visibility into their phone support operations if agents don’t log calls
  • Managers cannot easily gain insight into how their phone support fits into multichannel support strategies without centralized reporting

IT/Owners - additional set-up and management

  • Setup can be costly and may require additional integrations or equipment
  • IT must work with multiple vendors

Customers - negative experiences

  • Customers are kept waiting as agents switch between systems
  • Customers receive inconsistent service across channels, as agents don’t have visibility into customers’ complete cross-channel interactions

The solution is simple: integrated phone support

Benefits of integrated phone support

Luckily, all of the above issues are mitigated or outright solved by taking phone support out of the silo and integrating it with other support channels. With integrated phone support, customer service teams can manage all support channels from a single, centralized support system.

Let’s take a look at the three main problems and address each one:

Agents - boost productivity

If agents need to switch through several systems for each support channel might, those seconds add up throughout the day, greatly hindering an agent’s overall productivity. A consolidated customer communication system solves this: now agents don’t need to switch systems when responding to different support channels. It also give them full visibility into the customer’s activities across all channels, enabling the agent to provide personalized service.

Integrated phone support should include automatic ticket creation, call recording and customer history, so agents aren’t forced to manually take notes or search several systems of record for information about the customer. Everything happens automatically and exists in a single location, so agents have the context they need and the freedom to truly focus on the customer call. Plus outbound calls from existing tickets automatically update that ticket, keeping all multi-channel interactions in one place.

Managers - improve visibility

Managers require clear visibility into their customer service health—both of individual agents and the department as a whole—to improve performance and plan for the future. This is not feasible when phone support is managed through a system separate from other support channels.

Two distinct systems of record that don’t “speak” to each other—one for a call records (which only include phone and provides insights like average call time and number of calls each agent handles an hour) and a ticket record—make it impossible to gain comprehensive insights into all channels and plan accurately for the future.

Integrated phone support lets managers understand the performance of the entire channel mix, including:

  • What percentage of support tickets are through the phone
  • Which types of issues drive phone calls vs. emails vs. chat, etc., enabling managers to strategize ways to reduce calls or divert support requests to other channels, reducing costs and improving efficiencies
  • How to best train, hire, and distribute staff. If managers know they need more top-notch phone support agents, they can plan accordingly

    Owners/IT - consolidate systems and reduce costs

    With integrated phone support—specifically a phone support solution that’s built into a customer support platform—IT is able to work with one trusted vendor for all support channels. Furthermore, phone support systems that integrate with other channels are typically VoIP solutions, which come with the additional benefits of reduced equipment and maintenance costs, portability and flexibility.

    Customers - better experiences

    The most important reason to adopt integrated phone support is because it’s better for customers. It allows companies to provide customers with exactly what they want: quick, consistent, personalized service.

    First and foremost, customers want customer service to be fast. As mentioned earlier, the seconds can really add up when agents are forced to switch back and forth between different systems to reference interactions while on the phone with a customer. Integrated phone support means agents will have ready access to that information, leading to faster service. Integrated phone support means agents don’t have to keep customers waiting or worse, put them on hold while they search for information that straddles different systems.

    Customers also want service from knowledgeable agents, and they want it to feel personal. When phone support lives in a silo, agents lack access to previous interactions with the customer and other context. But with integrated phone support, agents will not only know who is calling (thanks to CTI screen pops), they can also see if the customers has any outstanding tickets in other channels, previously closed tickets, purchase history, and more. All of which makes it easier for the agent to treat the customer like an individual.

    Selecting a vendor

    Now that you’ve made the decision to give your customers the best possible service with integrated phone support, here is a quick primer to help you choose the best vendor:

    Support platform integration

    Look for a phone system that fits into your agents’ workflows, complementing other channels. Agents should work from a single platform, and managers should have a full-view into support operations. Seek a telephony system that is built in to the support platform, limiting need for any custom integration work and reducing the number of software vendors.

    Inbound screen popping

    For inbound calls, receiving pop-up alerts with a link to the contact’s record in your CRM puts essential information at agents’ fingertips. This is especially useful for organizations focused on customer service and support so that you can provide a personalized experience.

    Customer history

    Contact details, including custom user and organization fields, as well as full multi-channel support history, should be at the agent's' fingertips during a call for easy reference. Knowing what other issues a customer may be facing leads to faster resolution and consistent cross-channel support.

    Automatic ticket creation

    It is essential that you choose something that keeps track of calls and voicemails with automatic ticket creation, eliminating the need for manual data entry. Plus, tickets can serve as a data source for quality assurance, agent training, and customer feedback.

    Call analytics

    Call activity reporting with real-time performance analytics and dashboards are essential to monitor productivity. You will also want to make sure that it is easy to do historical reporting and analysis across your channels.

    Call recording

    You should have the ability to record all inbound and outbound calls made from any device associated with the system. These recordings should be easily accessible directly in the contact record and easy to share with other agents for training and quality assurance.

    Routing and automatic call distribution

    Ensure your phone support system will route callers to the right agent or department with routing tools like IVR (interactive voice response) systems and group routing. Round robin call distribution will ensure that calls are always routed to an available agent and evenly distributed among support team members.

    Flexibility & customization

    It’s important to seek a vendor that offers the flexibility to work with the systems you have in place and doesn’t require purchasing any additional software or hardware. It should be easy to customize for your team’s specific use cases and workflows, without the help of consultants or technicians.

    Ease of use

    Since agents and managers will work with this tool for many hours at a time, it’s mandatory that you choose something that’s simple to use and designed with the user in mind.

    Ready to get started?

    Zendesk Voice -- a phone support solution built right into Zendesk -- makes integrated phone support easy. Learn more here.

    Continue reading
  • Gartner’s 2016 Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center

    2016 Gartner Magic Quadrant CRM
    Effectively serving today’s social, digital, and mobile customers requires a customer-centric mindset—but that alone is not enough. You also need the right processes and technologies to consistently pull off a great customer experience.

    In a new report, Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center 2016, Gartner examines the global market for customer service and support applications for organizations with CECs as large as 20,000+ agents.

    In the 2016 report, Gartner moved Zendesk into the Leader quadrant, and we’d like to thank our 75,000 customers for that move. We believe that it was their selection of Zendesk over more-complex legacy vendors—plus our product innovations over the last year (like Satisfaction Prediction and Advanced Voice)—that propelled us into the Leader quadrant.

    And while we don’t like to brag, we are proud to be named a Leader: a modern choice that gives organizations a competitive advantage by providing the agility to scale, evolve, and innovate in customer service.

    The Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center 2016 report is available for complimentary download for a limited time. Read the full report to learn:

    Gartner's 2015 Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center

    • How Gartner views the current ecosystem of CEC technologies
    • Considerations for businesses looking to implement CEC technologies
    • Vendor capabilities for addressing the needs of today’s CECs
    • How Gartner analysts compare Zendesk to other technologies

    The Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center 2016 provides valuable information for business leaders seeking technology solutions for this critical part of the business.

    Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner's research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

    This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Zendesk.

    Gartner Predicts 2016: CRM Customer Service and Support

    In 2015, industry leaders were challenged to innovate and engage customers across all support channels: mobile, social, phone, chat, email, self-service, in-app, IoT, and more. 2016 and beyond are shaping up to be even more challenging and complex.

    How can leaders in customer service choose the right projects, stay focused, and continue to innovate in the future?

    Access your complimentary copy of the Gartner Predicts 2016: CRM Customer Service and Support report to read Gartner's predictions, analysis, strategic planning assumptions, and recommendations in areas that promise to dominate the landscape into 2018, including:

    • The mobile customer service experience
    • Voice of the customer
    • Understanding customer intent
    • The Internet of Things (IoT)

    This report is no longer available for complimentary download. Read more about this and other Gartner research on the Gartner website.

    You might also like: Gartner’s 2016 Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center

    Gartner Predicts 2016: CRM Customer Service and Support, M. Maoz, J. Davies, J. Sussin, O. Huang, and B. Manusama, 17 November 2015.

    2015 Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

    How Live Chat Helps Businesses and Consumers

    How Live Chat Helps Businesses and Consumers
    Shopping, paying bills, looking for information, getting advice, answering questions: If you do almost anything online these days, you’ve probably encountered—and maybe used—live chat to communicate with a company. If so, you’re not alone. Use of live chat has soared from 30% in 2009 to 52% in 2013 and continues to climb. In fact, nearly a third of consumers expect live chat to be available when they come into contact with a brand. Customers have also reported highest satisfaction rates on live chat (73%) as compared to traditional platforms like email (61%) or phone (44%).

    Most organizations now provide service and support across multiple channels including email, phone, social media, and live chat. Why? Because today’s customers expect an array of options when it comes to service, but more fundamentally, because businesses are fueled by the whims of their customers. Their purchases, satisfaction, ongoing engagement, and loyalty are what drives a company’s growth—and live chat can help with all of these.

    If you’re busy running a company while looking for new ways to make your employees more productive and efficient—all while holding the line on expenses—then live chat is the perfect candidate. No matter what your company’s business or story may be, now’s the time to seriously consider adding live chat to your customer service arsenal.

    In this ebook, we'll look at the value of live chat first from the customer’s point of view and then from a business standpoint. These viewpoints are closely tied together, because when customers are truly satisfied, your bottom line inevitably grows as well.

    Providing Great Customer Service Through Social Media

    Social media
    Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have evolved to become more than emergent platforms for marketing and advertising. Increasingly, they are also valid and important channels through which consumers solicit and receive customer service. According to Nielsen's 2012 Social Media Report, nearly half of U.S. consumers use social media to ask questions, report satisfaction, or to complain—and a third of social media users prefer "social care" to the phone.

    "Social care" is not a new concept, yet providing multi-channel support that includes social media can present real challenges for B2B and B2C companies both large and small—as well as opportunities to positively impact sales and customer loyalty. The reality is that customer service expectations are rising year over year and consumers are looking to brands to create a seamless experience that spans the showroom floor to the Facebook timeline. Simply having a social media presence is no longer enough; you need to be a social media rock star.

    But how? In this guide we'll explore some best practices for providing great customer service through social media, whether you're just getting started or taking your social care to the next level.

    BE WHERE YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE

    One of the first challenges to providing great customer service over social media is determining where to focus time and resources. While marketing efforts may drive traffic to targeted social sites, customer service teams must meet their customers where they're already socializing. For most companies, Facebook and Twitter will be the primary focus for social care, but some brands may find that their customers also frequent Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, or other social sites.

    To figure out where your customers are, search for mentions of your brand within popular social sites. Whether this is a first step toward creating a social media presence, or something your marketing department has already done, it is a mistake to leave dialogue about your brand solely to online commenters and the Google search algorithm.

    If you find that customers aren't yet talking about your brand online, look for ways to include yourself in conversations relevant to your industry. The way to be welcomed into social conversations is to add something of value.

    Because the consumer—not the brand—wields the most power over a brand's image on social media, the bottom line is that neglecting conversations that occur on sites like Facebook and Twitter can have staggering consequences. Conversocial reported that 88 percent of consumers are less likely to purchase from a company that leaves questions on social media unanswered.

    LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS HAVE TO SAY

    Many marketers are already familiar with social media monitoring tools that automate the process of searching for mentions of a brand name, or combing social media pages for specific keywords, but listening is equally important from a customer service perspective. What's more, many customers already believe that you are. When participants in a 2012 survey from Oracle were asked what was most important when visiting a company's social media page, 43 percent responded that they were looking for a direct response to their question, followed by 31 percent who expected direct access to customer service reps.

    Depending on how much volume your brand's social media pages generate, it's important to collect and analyze customer activity so that you understand the kind of issues being raised over social media. Smaller companies may need to collect a week or month's worth of activity while larger companies can probably take a pulse over a shorter period of time.

    Look at the information you've collected to determine:

    • How many comments appear to be written in moments of frustration, perhaps after having a poor customer experience in person or online?
    • How many are technical or account-specific questions?
    • How many comments provide feedback, positive or negative?
    • How many questions can be answered using links to existing help content?
    • How many brand mentions require, or would benefit from, a response?
    • What time of day are your customers most active on social media?

    The answers to these questions will help you plan staffing and resources, define priority criteria, make decisions about self-service options, and determine whether you'll be able to handle the majority of issues directly through the social channel or require a process for directing social customers to another line of support.

    There are tools that automate the process of calculating volume and time, and can generate reports to provide you with a complete picture of customer demand. You may learn, for example, that the hours your customers are most active on social media do not align with your actual support hours.

    TRACK AND MANAGE VOLUME

    The size of your company and industry vertical will affect your social metrics. Some companies will see a lot of what amounts to "noise" via social media, and their challenge will be to sift through the noise to find the top priority contacts that require a response. Other companies will find that the majority of their contacts are direct requests for customer service. Depending on the volume of social interactions your brand generates, and the size of your staff, your ability to keep track of social inquiries (and your responses) may be made easier by a customer service platform that can integrate with social media and turn posts, tweets, and direct or private messages into tickets. In this way, you can easily triage, track, and escalate issues behind the scenes, yet still respond to the customer in the space where they have contacted you.

    As a best practice, it's not necessarily wise to simply turn every social media mention into a ticket, either because your company's social media pages are so heavily trafficked that the volume becomes unwieldy, or because every interaction does not require a response (sometimes customers are perfectly adept at responding to each other). Still, what an integrated, multi-channel customer service platform can provide is context. The more you can see about a customer's history, the better. Are there open or prior conversations with this customer? Who did they interact with, and what was the outcome? Have they had this same issue before? Have they already tried reaching customer support through traditional channels or was Facebook their first line of defense? If you already have user data stored, agents can eliminate back-and-forth questioning for basic (or private) contact data.

    In the fast-paced world of social media, speed of response is critical. Treating social media tickets like any standard ticket isn't going to be enough because customers expect a faster response. So, how can you define priority criteria? There's no single way to do it, of course, but here are a few suggestions:

    Highest priority:

    • Direct technical or account-related questions
    • Complaints from dissatisfied customers
    • Service or product requests that are urgent
    • Issues (or outages) that affect many users or raise a potential PR crisis

    Items that are second-tier in priority are often opportunities to be proactive. You might consider:

    • Responding to general references to your products or services
    • Thanking customers who provided positive feedback
    • Touching base with those who have made comments about your brand or industry that weren't necessarily targeted at you or requiring a response

    Smaller businesses without a need for a customer service platform might try one built specifically for social media ticket creation and management (rather than phone, email, and chat support) or, at the very least, utilize the private or direct messaging features of Facebook and Twitter to help create an archive of interactions with a customer.

    REPEAT THIS MANTRA: TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!

    It's worth restating: speed of response is critical.

    "Live help" typically refers to phone or chat support, yet in the customer's mind, social media is a gray area that more closely straddles the line between chat and email support. There is the potential for help to be instantaneous if social media is constantly monitored, but more likely, help will arrive hours later.

    Several studies have found that the majority of customers expect a response over social media within the same day. That's pretty reasonable considering Edison Research reported that 42 percent of consumers who complained via social media expect a response within 60 minutes, and, according to the Oracle survey, more than half of Twitter users expect a response within two hours of tweeting at a company—both of which can be difficult service levels to meet, though some companies are beginning to.

    One of the challenges to providing social care when you're not using the follow-the-sun model of support, is that tweets and timeline posts can languish overnight, driving your response time from just a few hours to 10-20 hours later.

    As a best practice, always respond with immediacy—or with the promise of. This can be tricky without being able to send an email autoresponder, but one workaround is to prepare a boilerplate message catered to each social channel that lets the customer know you've seen their comment and that you're working on a resolution.

    Speed isn't everything if you're not able to resolve the customer's issue. As a general guideline, if you can easily answer a question posed over social media in the space of a comment or tweet, and the answer can be public, then by all means, do it. But more important than providing an answer through the same channel it was asked, is providing a timely and correct answer. This might involve providing a first response over social media that moves the conversation to another channel of support.

    SOCIAL CARE IS CARE. PERIOD.

    The success of your social care efforts will depend, as ever, on the quality of care you provide, but you might want to pull out the kid gloves because providing great customer service over social media can require extra special handling. Agent responses must be timely, accurate, sensitive, brief, and friendly—a tall order.

    Agents must respond quickly but not so fast that the issue isn't properly resolved. Agents must employ their soft skills to read into a customer's emotional state and properly determine when the informal nature of social media, such as the use of smiley faces or emojis, are appropriate for conveying friendliness and willingness to help, or when a more formal statement of empathy or apology might be required before addressing the customer's issue.

    Then there is the issue of length. Can or should the issue be resolved publicly, within the limited real estate of a comment or tweet? Is the agent trained in, or capable of, drafting custom replies without errors? Popular myth suggests that the young and tech-savvy are best equipped to handle social media, but some large companies have reported success using seasoned customer service agents, trained specifically for social media.

    In general, all tenets of excellent customer service apply to social media. A great response will:

    • Correctly identify the customer's issue
    • Provide links to additional information
    • Close the loop (even to a "thank you" comment or tweet)
    • Include a personal touch, such as signing off with the agent's first name or initials
    • Be consistent across the organization, with regard to tone and response time

    Active use of a site like Twitter can be an acquired taste—and a learned skill. Consider hosting a "Lunch and Learn" or equivalent to cross-train your staff on social media usage and etiquette. Often at smaller or newer companies, there is overlap between marketing and customer service, but as companies grow, shared skill sets, best practices, and communication guidelines tend to break down and become siloed. Cross-training will ensure that your teams learn from one another, and that your brand message and integrity are upheld at every point of customer interaction.

    Once agents are trained at responding over social media, they have the potential to be more efficient, handling four to eight times the number of contacts received through social media as they can by phone, according to a report by Gartner. In addition to improved efficiency, it was also reported that providing excellent social care helps to foster a deeper emotional commitment to your brand, directly impacting your Net Promoter Score.

    DETERMINE WHEN TO TAKE AN ISSUE "OFFLINE"

    Providing a public response to a question or complaint can go a long way. According to Conversocial, 95.6 percent of consumers are affected by other customer comments on a brand's social pages, and so it follows that consumers will also be affected by your responses to questions they see raised over social media.

    When you gain or lose customers based on customer service, it adds up in dollars. The good news is that, as reported by Bain and Company, social media users spend 21 percent more when they experience excellent customer service.

    But the reality is that not every contact over social media can be easily resolved in a single exchange (or in less than 140 characters), particularly if the issue is very technical or when the customer has many grievances to air. It can also be hard to know at the outset whether the customer will keep a thread going, cluttering your Twitter feed with @replies, so customer service reps must become adept at determining when to take a conversation from a public page to a private message, or perhaps off social media altogether—as well as when to bring the exchange back into the public sphere.

    Generally, agents should move a conversation "offline"—in this case, off a timeline or feed/stream/profile—when:

    • there are many back and forth replies, perhaps because the customer needs to answer a series of questions, or
    • sensitive personal data is required, such as email addresses, phone numbers, passwords, account or credit card numbers.

    But how to do it? Sensitive information that can be quickly conveyed in writing may easily be sent in a private or direct message through the social media site. The following are based on a few real world examples of how one company used Twitter to request information, suggest another channel, and move a conversation into a private message:

    @Customer My sincerest apologies! I would be happy to look into this for you. Can you please follow us and DM me with your order #? ^SB

    @Customer So sorry for those emails! If you need help w/ your email settings, don't hesitate to LiveChat us [bit.ly/link] ^SB

    @Customer Apologies for the inconvenience! I just reached out to you via Facebook Message. Be sure to check your "Other" folder. ^SB

    One benefit to using a customer service platform that integrates both social and traditional channels is that you can use social media to let the customer know you'll send them the information they need by email, without having to request the customer's email address.

    After an issue is resolved offline, it's important to return to the social channel and thank the customer for reaching out. Public interactions can be a double-edged sword, but the positive ones, when a customer has the chance to express gratitude for a great customer experience, is not the interaction to miss out on.

    In our 2013 Omnichannel Customer Service Report we learned that customers default back to phone and email support in almost even numbers when they don't receive a response over social media. While that doesn't sound too bad, the report also found that 76 percent of conversations between customers and brands ended completely after the brand suggested the customer switch channels to either email or phone.

    While building a social media support strategy, it's worth considering what might happen if you moved every social interaction "offline" or to another channel of support. Companies with limited staffing and resources might find that they must, and when done well, the customer will feel like they received a response over social media and had their issue resolved.

    LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE LEMONADE

    We're all familiar with that old adage, "When life gives you lemons..." The well-known implication is that it's possible to turn around a less-than-hoped-for situation with a change in attitude. This is particularly useful advice when providing customer service over social media, given consumers' proclivity to use social media to grab a brand's attention. A recent survey by the Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State University, in conjunction with Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, found that 50 percent of consumers will complain to a brand about a bad experience, and that 35 percent of Americans are using Facebook, in particular, to complain about a shopping experience.

    When this happens, everything depends on your response. Receiving negative feedback is an open invitation to rectify your brand's image and, more important, your relationship with the customer. The customer must feel like they've been heard and that you're willing to do what it takes to make them happy.

    The following are some other things customer service reps might do to proactively to engage customers:

    • Respond even when the user hasn't directly tweeted at you or asked for help. Answering brand mentions or comments that don't require a response, but might benefit from one, shows you're paying attention.
    • Promote your customers by retweeting a happily resolved support interaction, or by "liking" helpful interactions that occur between customers. It's kind of like giving your customers a hug.
    • Give your customer service team a public face by introducing who's on duty and how long they'll be answering questions. Consider posting a team photo or an agent spotlight. It's nice to connect the face of the brand with the names behind it.
    • If feasible, follow up a resolved interaction with, "How is everything?"
    • Promote self-service. Think about introducing a support tip of the week and assigning it a clever, unique, and easy-to-remember hashtag, or designating someone to update your company's social media accounts when a new article has been added to your knowledge base or help center.

    MIND YOUR P'S AND Q'S

    Whatever the social channel, there are a few ways to (publicly!) stick your foot in your mouth. The following are a few social media don'ts:

    • Don't neglect your customers. If you're going to provide customer service over social media, at minimum every direct support question should be answered.
    • Don't delete (or hide) comments or posts. The only exception is when comments are clearly spam or in violation of posted community guidelines. Deleting a customer's negative comment in order to preserve your virtual image will only further enrage the customer and damage the relationship.
    • Don't be defensive. It's important to remember that the customer, even when angry, has reached out to you. Thank them for bringing their issue to your attention, acknowledge their concern, and apologize for the trouble they are experiencing (even if you know it's self-wrought).
    • Don't engage with a customer whose intent is to simply argue and publicly defame your brand. Sometimes your best defense is silence and, after a certain point, they'll damage their own credibility more than your brand's reputation.
    • Don't overwhelm your customers with too much information, whether you're posting articles from a knowledge base or providing a too-lengthy response in a comment.

    There are, of course, always a few exceptions to the rule, and here's one of them:

    • Don't reply or respond to every customer in the event of mass issues or outages. When many customers are affected by a single issue, it's best to provide only public status updates that will reach everyone.

    Regular monitoring of your company's social media pages combined with savvy use of the sites can elevate your customer service efforts from acceptable to exceptional. The better your social care, the more social traffic you can expect, and this is a good thing!

    Looking for more information about using social media for customer service? Download our platform-specific tip sheets here:

    Tips for Providing Great Customer Service on Facebook
    Tips for Providing Great Customer Service on Twitter

    Tips for Providing Great Customer Service on Twitter

    Much like the great Wizard of Oz, it's not always clear to consumers who, exactly, sits behind the curtain of a brand's Twitter profile, but they believe someone is there. For years companies have been pouring money into marketing and advertising on Twitter and have, effectively, taught customers to turn to the all powerful Tweet to get their questions answered as quickly as possible.

    Usage of Twitter for customer service is growing, perhaps more rapidly than any other social channel, but the level and quality of support provided across brands and industries is uneven, and there is clear room for improvement. A March 2013 study by Simply Measured reported that 99 percent of the Interbrand Top 100 brands now have an active Twitter handle, and 30 percent of those brands have dedicated support handles. While it's a promising start, only 10 percent of these brands responded to more than 70 percent of their contacts, and the average response rate overall was 42 percent.

    Our tip sheet for providing support through Twitter includes suggestions for:

    • Searching for direct and indirect mentions of your brand
    • Using Twitter to promote other support channels
    • Learning the language and mastering the art of brevity
    • Using features such as direct messaging and lists
    • Hosting a Twitter Chat with your customers
    • and more!