As the use of social media has filtered out across organisations, different management structures have emerged, but which department(s) should be responsible for delivering Social Customer Service?
Most large organisations have now developed some form of Strategy Committee, which involves multiple departments feeding in requirements and then collaborating closely on delivery. In spite of this, the budget has often been retained within the control of the Marketing or Communications Departments.
That set-up poses inevitable challenges where social customer service is concerned, as Katy Howell of Immediate Future, explains:
"Marketing and Communications don't always have access to the customer database, which causes problems when they're responding to queries picked up through social media monitoring. When did the purchase happen? Is the customer in warranty? These are common questions and Customer Service can handle these enquiries so much better than them. They just need the right tools at their disposal".
Yet, in organisations that focus on using social media to improve customer service and do open up social media to Customer Service Teams, there are also challenges. Most notably, the fact that traditional Customer Service staff are used to conducting conversations in private, whereas social media can make conversations very public. There's also the challenge that building your social customer care team requires effective writing skills; especially when you only have 140 characters at your disposal. It requires a whole new skill-set and, often, re-training.
The inevitable answer is that the added pressure of dealing with a public complaint should be felt by the whole organisation. Every team needs to be aware of what's happening and be 'on-call' to help resolve customer queries at short notice.
This need for joined-up thinking has led some commentators to suggest that, although difficult to implement, social customer service could have a lasting transformational effect on how organisations communicate internally. Katy Howell is in no doubt about how organisations need to adapt to the social customer mindset:
"It requires business transformation and a change in goals to incorporate social media. It is essential that what you're trying to achieve becomes a bit more joined up and that you don't think of the customer only in terms of one channel".
A key element of this internal communication piece is to get different teams and departments working closely together to monitor for social media mentions, manage the brand response and, ultimately, deliver customer satisfaction. This is something Ronan Gillen at eBay puts particular emphasis on:
"A critical part of this is making sure that different departments know each other well and interact daily. Their relationship is as important as the engagement."
For more on this topic try our blog: Social Customer Service for Marketeers