Recent statistics from the Genesys Social Media and Customer Services Summit found that a massive 72 per cent of attendees hadn’t yet integrated social media into their business customer service operations.

Most companies are using social media as an advertising, marketing or PR channel but not yet for customer service. So while many organisations have perhaps got as far as creating a social media presence, the majority still face the challenge of determining how to handle customer communication via that channel. But customers expect to be able to ask companies questions via this ‘immediate’ communication channel – the catch is that once you have created a social media presence, customers immediately  see that as a way to communicate with the company.

Companies are then left with the challenge of how to handle customer communication via social media – something which many companies are currently choosing to ignore. And the statistics are confirmed by research from Contact Babel which found that only 16 per cent of organisations currently see social media as a key customer service channel. They are not yet using its potential for direct customer engagement.

Use it or lose it

Both statistics flag up a major flaw in the majority of companies’ communication with customers. By ignoring the impact of social media as a communication channel, companies are losing a huge opportunity to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and meet a lot of customers where they spend the majority of their time.

Amazon UK, for example, have a Twitter profile which they use to advertise and announce products through. But I challenge you to try and communicate via that channel. I tried a number of times when they failed me and got nothing in response.

Customers interact with friends and family via social networks with great immediacy, and will expect their interaction with a company to be fulfilled in the same way – especially one the size of Amazon!

So to be truly effective, organisations need to integrate social media into customer service, treating it as just as important a channel as any other to contact customers and resolve any potential issues – importantly before they have the chance to go viral across this ‘immediate’ communication channel.

Social media is one more channel through which customers expect excellent customer service and the questions customers will ask are just the same as through any other channel – so employees need to be as empowered to be able to provide those answers. And customers who are increasingly used to the immediate nature of social networks will become more demanding.

Companies need to be ready!

Turning a private negative into a public positive

Never before has customer service been so public and the fact that private complaints are now public too means that the damage to a brand from even a tiny incident could be disproportional. Everyone can now see individual instances when an organisation fails its customers, and when potential customers are evaluating whether to do business with you, these complaints could encourage potential customers to look elsewhere. Your brand promise is damaged when your dirty laundry is being aired in public; but it is enhanced when the response is immediate and obviously correct.

So if a customer Tweets a problem, the best response would be to quickly Tweet in response to show that you’ve acknowledged their concern, and then solve it appropriately. This could be either publicly or privately off-line – depending on the nature of the issue.

To achieve this, companies need to have a clear strategy in place to manage customer interactions that appear on social media. This needs to be supported by a formal process to co-ordinate the information flow and response between various departments – whether that’s marketing, sales or customer service, front or back office – to deliver a truly satisfying, seamless customer experience.

In many cases a working group could be set up with representatives from each of the departments to put this process in place and to implement a comprehensive policy on resolving customer interactions via social media. This should include the way in which interactions are categorised and prioritised, just as in any other channel. In this way agents can be empowered to immediately respond to comments on social media in the most appropriate way and be connected to a process to deal with them.

A strategy for the entire organisation

So it’s clear that the original statistic of 72 per cent not yet integrating social media with customer service operations flags up a major flaw in the majority of companies’ communication with customers. And by ignoring the impact of social media as a communication channel, companies could lose an opportunity to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and meet a lot of customers where they spend a lot of their time.

But by implementing a clear strategy for the entire organisation to follow – which looks at social media as part of the entire customer service operation – there’s no reason to be afraid of using social media as an effective and positive customer service channel.



About Richard McCrossan
Joining Genesys in 2007, Richard established the intelligent customer front door (iCFD) as a fundamental philosophy for cross channel customer service.As Strategic Business Director EMEA for Genesys, Richard now drives customer service strategies that encompass all contact channels, including social media, mobile, voice, web and more.

An experienced blogger, consultant and speaker, Richard is a passionate evangelist for good customer experience.

Richard McCrossan

Richard McCrossan


Richard McCrossan, Strategic Business Director, Genesys.