If it helps to increase business exposure and connect directly with the target audience, why wouldn’t brands want to engage with their customers on social media?

Done well it has the power not only to boost levels of engagement but also to improve the quality of that engagement and resolve issues quickly.

So, how do brands ensure they are using social in the best way possible and creating a recipe for social customer care success? There are a number of key ingredients.

The first element is to listen everywhere. It would be a mistake to depend on a single channel, or just a small part of the internet. It’s crucial to engage often, and the best way to do this is by using technology to understand how and where a sincere interest in engagement can be initiated. Then go ahead with it.

Brands must make sure they consistently process all interactions, suggestions, ideas, market trends, and competitive insights. They can then build an always-on view of their customers by tracking, trending, alerting, and acting on insights even for those customers they are not already engaged with.

Innovation is bringing new and exciting opportunities to the world of social customer care, not least with the application of deep learning and AI technologies. We can now gain much greater insight into online conversations and topics and understand how questions are being answered and challenges are being met.

This insight helps brands to react to both threats and opportunities. AI is playing a key role too in identifying and connecting with customers via social media, predicting how best to respond to them, to enhance the timing and content of these responses and ensure customers feel listened to and understood.

In the future, it’s highly likely that an increasing number of conversations via social media will be human to machine, and whether we are comfortable with this progression or not, the machines will be smart, empathetic, and responsive enough to bring about unprecedented efficiencies and improved engagement for the brands that make use of them.

There is a difference between social customer service and social media management, of course. Social media management is really about curating the brand across the different social channels, understanding the equity, attachment, and loyalty customers have to the brand and tracking these concepts with metrics, reports, and models that identify who, why and how customers respond to that brand. It’s market research and customer insights applied to social media.

Social customer service by contrast is the next evolution of the customer services call line or call centre. Managing customers has moved on from the days when a call agent waited on the end of a phone line to resolve any issues.

Companies today use social media, messaging, self-service forums, knowledge bases, email, chat, chatbots, and telephone calls to support customer service. Good customer service now is across multiple channels and has become an important, public facing route for helping to connect customers to companies to answer a wide range of questions, solve their problems, and help drive positive outcomes.  It’s about not just listening, but engaging with customers on whatever social channel they choose to use. 

It’s not just artificial intelligence that will forge change in the years to come. Another important development is smart voice appliances like Alexa and Google Home. These gadgets are now in homes, in phones, in cars and they are set to disrupt all the familiar ways that we currently communicate using a keyboard.

It won’t be unusual for customers to talk more and tap, swipe or type a lot less on screens and keyboards. Social media and social customer service will increasingly become verbal and audible, not just text based.

There are some technologies that may not stand the test of time and one of these is likely to be typewritten chatbots. They are simply an intermediate step before we move on to audiobots, or audible human-to-machine interfaces.

Most brands are experiencing great success with their social media and social customer service activities, some are well known for it, but the bottom line is that if it is implemented in the right way, with the right technology and staff that are trained to maximise the many benefits it offers, it can be hugely rewarding for both customers and the brand.

To illustrate this, a short personal experience. A while ago I was travelling on a Virgin Train out of London for a meeting with a customer. As I left the train and walked down the platform I realised I’d left my backpack which contained my computer and passport, above my seat. I had a flight back to the USA later that day and without my backpack I was stranded. 

The train had already left the station, but a Virgin Trains station manager was able to communicate with the train engineer, who passed my backpack on at the next station to a train heading back to London. I retrieved my pack when I returned to the station after my meeting.  I offered to tip the stationmaster, but he said: “No worries, it’s my job. Just tweet about it!”

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