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Modern customer service— More social, more intelligent

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Customer service has a growing array of options available to streamline interactions with agents and provide new self-service capabilities. Most customer service functions are now available on mobile devices, bringing new convenience to users. The management of channels such as social media platforms has matured so that retailers and other businesses can readily monitor and respond to messages from consumers seeking information or assistance. Behind the scenes, robotic process automation (RPA) can be triggered by customer actions or chatbots.

Customer interaction through social media has come a long way in the last few years. At first, it was a one-way street for consumers communicating with brands. “The initial use of social media by consumers was to publicly vent or to brand bash,” said Harry Rollason, senior director of marketing at Conversocial. “It was not used for customer support.” But brands are now responding and engaging in conversations with customers. “There is much less brand silence,” Rollason said. “Companies have discovered that they need to manage social media interactions at scale.”

Among the industries that are further along in enabling these conversations are retail ecommerce and hospitality. “Some industries are lagging in the use of social media but they tend to be the more highly regulated ones that need to shift the conversation to traditional channels behind the firewall,” said Rollason. Conversocial reported that companies using its platform saw an 87% rise in the volume of private messaging between 2019 and 2020, with only 27% of the conversations taking place with customers over public social channels. However, the conversations are likely to start on public channels. Conversocial supports multiple social channels, including Facebook Messenger, Google’s Business Messages, Apple Business Chat, Instagram Messages, and What’s App Business.

The next step in using social media to support customers is to integrate media content with other enterprise systems to provide greater insight about the customer. For example, it is helpful to know if a customer is in the company’s loyalty program, so social media platforms need to plug into the organization’s CRM system. “Ideally, organizations should not see resolution of issues through messaging as a one-off interaction, but as part of an ongoing conversation that builds a strong relationship,” Rollason advised.

A generational shift

The market for using social media for customer engagement and support is growing rapidly, especially with respect to younger generations. According to eMarketer, 90% of Millennials, 78% of Generation X, and 48% of Baby Boomers use social media. “Millennials and Gen Z are more likely go to social networks as their primary source of information about products and services,” said Darren Guarnaccia, senior vice president of product at Hootsuite, which offers a social media management platform that monitors social media, engages customers, and analyzes data. “They are less likely than previous generations to use search engines and go to websites.”

Many companies want to leverage social media but are not always sure where to start, according to Guarnaccia. “One of our goals is to explain the value of social media and how to use it,” he said. “We have a very comprehensive education program to ensure that our customers understand the concepts and the practical aspects of leveraging social media for customer engagement and support.”

Along with the preference for social media by younger users, the pandemic has fueled a rise in customer support via social media. “COVID has had a very large impact on the use of social media,” Guarnaccia said. “Message levels spiked because people could not come into stores and even medical facilities in person.” Organizations needed to develop enterprise-scale social media management. Retail, consumer product goods, government, and higher education were among the most intensive users of social media. Messaging helped sustain customer relationships when in-person interaction was not possible.

Being able to deliver content from multiple sources in response to a customer inquiry is critical to customer support and self-service. “We have invested heavily in having an open platform that can accommodate Shopify, Salesforce, and other applications in the technology stack,” said Guarnaccia. This integration also allows Hootsuite to feed back the social interactions to Zendesk, Salesforce, and other CRM applications.

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