With the holidays just around the corner, many brands are staring down their busiest, and oftentimes, most challenging time of the year. With the lurking holiday shopping madness of online and offline shoppers on the hunt for last-minute presents, social care volumes are expected to go through the roof.
I recently sat down with Ray Rahmati, Spredfast + Lithium‘s Senior Market Director and Head of Agency Partnerships to get his thoughts on how to get social care teams prepped and ready to offer exceptional experiences to your customers, during the holidays and beyond!
If you missed our #SmartSocial Twitter Chat on the topic, check out our Twitter Moment recap!
What is the biggest mistake you think brands make when it comes to customer care?
No matter how great your company is. No matter how amazing your products and services are. If your customer service is less than spectacular, it won’t make much difference. It doesn’t matter if you have a social care team of one or one hundred – Everyone needs to be thoroughly trained on customer service, your company’s social brand voice, any necessary industry regulations, and information on your products and services.
Having care agents on the front line who aren’t adequately trained is one of the quickest ways to lose a customer. Your customer wants resolution and consistency, each and every time they engage with your brand. In addition to that consistency, customers want accessibility. If you want repeat business, you need to be accessible, and in the channels where your customers are most comfortable engaging. Customer expectations are changing and brands need to be agile to meet new needs.
Remember, it costs less to keep a customer happy than to acquire a new one. Even more interesting is that it costs even less to save an unhappy customer than to acquire a new one.
Which channels are the best for responding to customer care inquiries?
The best channel for responding to customer care inquiries is the one your customer initially engaged with you!
Imagine you went to your favorite retailer with a return purchase. The clerk tells you that you have to go to customer service for the return. You get to customer service and they tell you have to fill out a form, mail back the purchase, and your refund will come 2-3 weeks. I don’t know about you, but this experience makes my blood boil. And I feel the same way when I engage with a brand through social or digital channels and they push me towards a contact form, or worse, their 800 number.
One thing to remember. When you commit to being somewhere – be it a social channel, chat, or in a customer community – you have to be there. You have to respond, engage with people, and do it in a timely fashion.
What metrics are the most important for brands trying to create better experiences for their customers?
The single most important metric has to be response time. Consumer expectations are changing, with the majority of people expecting a response on social in under an hour. During the holidays, when customers are scrambling to finalize holiday shopping and preparations for hosting family, time is of the essence.
Another metric that I think is important is response rate. We’ve conducted research where we found that the majority of brand mentions go without a response. Set benchmarks during peak times so you can measure increases in efficiency throughout the year.
At times of peak volume, like the during holidays, it’s important to also look at volume of mentions/comments/care issues by network and channel. By keeping a close eye on these metrics, brands can understand when the highest number of care issues are coming in, and when and where to allocate resources.
What role can Marketing teams play in providing better support during the holidays?
It’s common knowledge at the enterprise level that silos wreak havoc. When care and marketing are not on the same page, the experience for the customer suffers. But how do you bridge the divide between Marketing and Care? Through real-time digital and social channels. Creating alignment will pay dividends. Customers enjoy a better and more consistent experience, and brands gain more control of the customer journey.
With access to a wealth of data, marketing teams are often in a strong position to understand what customers need and want. Typically holding larger budgets, they can supplement support activities with moments of delight through “fan love” programs.
Coordination between marketing and care makes the brand’s overall response smarter. Giving visibility to the care team on the editorial calendar pays dividends: proper resource planning, FAQs written, and response language pre-approved.
Your ultimate goal should be to provide a consistent and enjoyable brand experience every time a customer interacts with you. By creating tighter collaboration with marketing, care teams can ensure a consistent brand voice and 360 view of the customer.
Should brands plan on adding additional staff around the holidays to handle customer care inquiries?
If we make another comparison to the offline world, most retailers will hire a ton of holiday help to assist with the increased foot-traffic at their stores. So why wouldn’t you do the same with your online support channels? We have to make sure that this part-time or seasonal help has the proper training to handle online issues and requests.
As you think about bringing in staff from other departments, or hiring consultants to assist around the holidays, here are some things to think about when building out the team: are they are passionate about customer experience and your brand? Are they problem solvers? Do they show great judgement? Do they have excellent written communication skills? Are they multi-taskers? And lastly, and probably most important, are they empathetic?
What can brands do to prepare in advance for potential hiccups or negative brand mentions by consumers?
If you are like me…well…to be honest…my wife. Your holiday shopping is tied up with a bow well before Thanksgiving. She has a plan and it starts well before the Xmas Eve rush. Brands should take the same approach for support planning – Get your support teams staffed up and trained, define coverage times and roles, and do this well ahead of time. This preparation will help mitigate against anxious moments when hiccups or negative mentions inevitably crop up.
As we discussed earlier, the importance of tighter collaboration between Marketing and Care teams during the holidays can’t be understated. Marketing is likely launching their biggest campaigns and Care teams need to be informed and ready to address questions.
And don’t forget the basics! Sometimes the smallest thing can make the experience with your brand a positive one. “Please,” “Thank you,” “We’re sorry about the inconvenience,” are simple phrases that cost nothing, take little effort, and win big points with customers. #SmartSocial
With Christmas just a week away, what last-minute advice would you give to brands preparing for the rush of customer holiday inquiries?
I have a soft spot in my heart for social care teams. Dealing with thousands of angry and unhappy customers, especially during the holidays, can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be all bad! Find opportunities to share some brand love with your customers. Brand love builds lasting relationships – These programs have endless possibilities and are the natural next step once you’ve mastered general social care and authentic engagement. Brand love takes a brand from passive and reactive to proactive and present.
Treat every single interaction with your customers as an opportunity to build a personal relationship. Brands that have some of the most loyal customer bases have built that advocacy by building relationships.
If you follow these tips and best practices, put in the time training, and have a plan in place, you’ll ensure that the holiday season goes off without a hitch! Enjoy the reduced volumes…Valentine’s Day is around the corner!I