Rene Looper: The changing face of customer service

Customer service is undergoing a major evolution. Online communication is moving away from private, anonymous, one-to-one channels towards public one-to-many channels that are mobile, social and attached to real identity.

Tuminds managing director Rene Looper. Picture: Contributed
Tuminds managing director Rene Looper. Picture: Contributed

In brief, social media is changing the entire business of customer service, posing great challenges and presenting new opportunities for brands.

KLM is the globally recognised leader in developing effective social media strategies for customer service, brand development, and revenue generation. In 2014, the airline generated €25 million (£21m) from its social media channels alone. Managed by 130 dedicated social customer care employees, the airline tracks a staggering eight million social profiles across numerous platforms – that equates to about 75,000 weekly messages, in 14 languages.

It has also introduced one of the first dedicated social payment systems for customers and has a Twitter header display to manage and improve response times.

Despite KLM’s well-publicised successes in social customer care, many consumer-facing businesses lag behind and this is proving bad for business.

Forrester’s Customer Service Index has looked at the stock prices of the top- and bottom-performing public companies. The top do well in customer experience, while the poor performers in customer experience are at the bottom. In other words, there is a direct correlation between good customer service and a healthy bottom line.

A recent study from Gartner highlighted that more than 89 per cent of companies will have to compete on customer experience, as competing on price is becoming too expensive. This is something businesses are going to need to take a close look at.

So what does a social customer service look like and how do you set one up?

Make a customer service plan

Always have a plan in place for managing customer service on social media. Define a clear social media strategy, pinpointing how you can use social media to support business objectives and maintain relationships with your customers. Link your social media customer care plan with any existing CRM strategies to improve customer service and to analyse social media conversations. This should include clear protocols for managing crisis scenarios.

Staff buy-in

It’s vital to get buy-in from your employees – they have to be fully in tune with the ethos and culture of social customer care. Training is key to this. Walk employees through your process for managing customer service through social media, stress the importance of customer sentiment and explain how positive and negative reviews can impact your business.

Address complaints and take action

Never ignore complaints or negative feedback – address issues directly online or ask them to email you to take things offline. Although removing negative posts isn’t always possible, providing a helpful, positive response is the next best thing.

Customer feedback is king

Never be afraid to ask your customers for feedback – provide a platform for online reviews and monitor responses for opportunities to improve your products or services.

Share customer insights

Always seek to share customer feedback throughout different departments in your organisation so the learning is company-wide, not just in the boardroom.

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Managing customer relationships with social media present huge opportunities but must be planned and managed carefully. Companies must deeply embed their social customer service operation internally, taking all the steps necessary to minimise risk why taking advantage of opportunities. The key is to plan every detail and get your employees bought into your vision.

• Rene Looper is managing director of social media training company Tuminds