Social Media: Getting the Voice and Tone Right

Social media sites are now an integral part of society. As a matter of fact, Pew Research reports that 69 percent of Americans have at least one social media profile—up from 48 percent just five years ago. Usage has so exploded that it’s moved the dial on customer care from  a “nice to have” to a “must have” for businesses.

Thus, many companies have joined the social media ranks—about nine in 10, according to an eMarketer survey. Although not every brand is optimizing its presence on social platforms (approximately 70 percent of customer service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered), many have their paddles in the water and are rowing along—often upstream against an overwhelming flow of conversations.

One aspect of social media that hasn’t received a lot of attention, however, is establishing the right voice and tone for social platforms. As this is critical to your social success, we provide the following advice for doing it right.

Establishing the right social media voice and tone

It’s agreed that canned responses are anathema to social media. This is a platform for authentic exchanges of opinion among peers. The voice and tone must be personal—but how personal?

Answer this question by first understanding voice and tone: Your brand’s “voice” is its personality, e.g., positive, sarcastic, formal—i.e., your mission statement. Tone is a subset of voice that adds flavor depending on audience, channel or situation—i.e., application of the mission. Essentially, you should have one voice and a variety of tones.

Most companies have a great sense of what these are for their brand already. If not, pin them down by asking the following questions, suggested by Buffer:

  • If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have?
  • What would this “person’s” relationship to consumers be like?
  • List acronyms of your company’s personality—what it is not.
  • What companies have personalities similar to yours? How are they similar?
  • How do you want customers to think about your company?

Once you’ve determined some adjectives that define your voice and tone, try to create messaging that encompasses your brand personality. Great examples can be found on MailChimp.

The conundrum for brands is that what’s appropriately personal for one client will not work for another. In general, brands are advised to establish a polite and professional tone until the time when feedback indicates a more or less formal tone will suit the audience best. This involves going through a learning curve with each audience segment.

Striking a natural tone that appeals to customers often requires a lot of research. Bianca Buckridee, vice president of social media operations for JPMorgan Chase, during a panel session at the Wharton Social Media Best Practices Conference, said, “It’s difficult to do. … You have to keep monitoring. … We strive to make it look real-time, but we’re really doing a ton of research in the back.”

Your voice and tone are features of your messaging that humanize your brand and let you take part in conversations with key targets naturally. This fosters trust and, ultimately, loyalty—even turning some customers into brand advocates or ambassadors. If done right, you could end up with a host of fans who will grow your brand with you.

Even with its challenges, social media customer care represents a tremendous growth opportunity for businesses to foster strong customer relationships.

Social Customer Service in the Contact Center: 7 Best Practices

A formal customer service social media group could be a boon to your contact center. It could be tasked with developing an efficient strategy to manage channels like Facebook and Twitter—to benefit customers and the business.

Assign members to the group who are socially savvy. For the uninitiated, social media can be intimidating, so give some of your in-house millennials (who grew up in the Digital Age) a shot at wrangling the social beast. Be sure, as well, to add experienced customer service staff to the team.

When handled skillfully, customer service via social media can enhance the customer experience and even create brand loyalty that is infectious. This is the potential impact of 24/7 customer access, instant communication and quick problem resolution.

In a nutshell, social can be a valuable ally for your brand, so it’s worth making the effort.

A very public forum

Social media is also a highly visible forum for disgruntled customers to complain.  A gripe can speed around a social platform, spreading vitriolic negativity wherever it goes. This is even more of a reason to manage social media for your brand.

You need to be where your customers are—both to boost engagement and to thwart destructive comments. And your customers are on social. In one JD Power survey of more than 23,000 online consumers, 67 percent of respondents claimed to have contacted a company via social media for support.

Customer expectations are rising when it comes to social media. It used to be a pleasant surprise when a brand responded to a customer care issue on social media. Now, it’s become de rigueur for companies, meaning that sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become important channels through which consumers solicit and receive customer service.

Social media and customer lifetime value

With social media in your pocket, you have a better chance of retaining customers—because you have a better chance of keeping them happy.

Here are seven ways to provide great customer service through social media:

  1. Choose the right platform(s): Determine where to focus your social media time and resources by searching for mentions of your brand within popular social sites. If your customers aren’t talking about your brand online, look for ways to include yourself in conversations and add something of value.
  2. Monitor for mentions: Use available tools to automate the process of searching for mentions. Collect and analyze customer activity to better understand their issues and to respond appropriately. Use insights to make decisions for improving customer service.
  3. Respond quickly: Your company size and industry vertical will affect your social metrics. You may need to sift through a lot of “noise.” You may also need a customer service platform that can integrate with social media and turn certain messages into tickets—with a caveat: In the fast-paced world of social media, speed of response is critical, so assign priority accordingly.
  4. Adjust your tone: Be friendly, but not too friendly. While chumminess, including emojis, is acceptable between friends and family, don’t necessarily expect a warm welcome when they come from your business. As a general rule of thumb, keep language concise and professional, but avoid canned responses and be personal. You may have to strike a different tone with each customer, adjusting based on the responses you receive. What tickles one person might offend another.
  5. Take heated issues offline: Customers can be unfair and demanding. Tactfully and quickly, take negative conversations offline before they do damage to your brand. Placate the customer while signaling to online observers that the issue is being handled. Don’t simply pass the customer to another channel, like email, as that can come off as rude and non-empathetic.
  6. Leverage your database: Save yourself time and make life easier for your customers by linking to knowledge base articles. Rather than explaining complex processes over social media, provide easy guides built to help. Furthermore, use your CRM software to leverage customer histories that can add value to social media conversations.
  7. Know when to switch to crisis mode: One or two complaints are manageable. If 100 customers are mentioning the same problem, it’s a crisis for your brand. Make sure you have a planned response: Have a trusted PR firm on retainer, or a company leader prepared to address customers directly.

Use these seven social media best practices to deliver great support on the social platforms that your customers already frequent. You’ll build stronger relationships and create more loyal customers.

Is Social Customer Care As Successful As We Think?

Every business puts “customer care” at the top of its priority list, particularly in today’s highly competitive environment where consumers have so many choices and loyalty is at a premium. Social media service has been touted as the next big thing, and headlines heralded that it would soon make the old fashioned call center a thing of the past. However, a recent news article revealed the fact that social customer care may already be falling behind, even though it seems to be just hitting its stride.

Customer care delivered via social media may not be as effective as once hoped for several reasons. For one, there aren’t enough well-trained customer care professionals handling social media inquiries. While phone-based customer service is often delivered with a personal touch and a professional attitude, people may lack understanding of how social media works. It is also difficult to finesse a complicated service conversation or complaint over social media without special training and know-how.

For social customer care to be successful, customer care specialists must handle social media interactions must with the same poise, compassion, and professionalism that they bring to telephone or in-person interactions. Social media service shouldn’t be looked at simply as an “add on” or “extra.” Instead, service professionals should strive to fully develop it as a service channel. There are fine points to communicating via social media, and the rules for high-quality telephone interactions should also apply here—such as resolving problems quickly, reducing the need to repeat information, and providing courteous service.

With the right education and understanding in place, social media can become a fully fledged and effective customer service channel, but right now the risk is that it will fall behind and out of customer preference.

Millennials and WebRTC in the Contact Center

Contact centers are making significant investments in human capital and real-time communications technology to interact with millennials and other customers more effectively via virtual queues, SMS and video. In fact, WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communications) is an open source project supported by Google that is furthering the use of unified communications (UC) in businesses.

With WebRTC, video, voice and chat can occur in real time using browser-to-browser applications. For instance, users can initiate a chat interaction and then connect instantly—at no charge—to a live Communicator just by clicking a link (without any software or plug-in). Benefits include constant voice and data encryption that ensures secure communications, excellent voice and video quality based on codec technology, device independence and reliability.

Organizations have been taking advantage of the open source community to develop and/or deploy integrated technology solutions that help employees to collaborate and communicate more effectively—often using cloud-based services. They are gaining functionality through small teams of developers at lower cost and time expenditures than they could have during the days of projects led by outsourcers and systems integrators.

What companies are learning, after years of investing in technology, is that the strategy only results in small advances in overall customer service unless the investments are combined with human capital investments (think treating Communicators and employees as key team members).

To meet the needs of the large millennial population in the United States, companies are finding that leveraging real-time communications is improving interactions. Millennials—raised on digital technologies and quick and easy communications with family and friends—expect companies to provide similarly seamless experiences. They don’t want to be hung up in IVR queues or connected to a Communicator who can’t address their issues on first contact.

Toward this end, organizations are developing omni-channel customer service practices so that millennials can engage with them over their preferred channels. Businesses must be careful in this regard to bring on new channels one at a time and with full understanding of the requirements of each as well as how millennials use them.

Self-service is another contact center initiative fueled by millennials and the evolution of smartphones, Internet speeds and phone applications. Self-service offerings are helping to offset customer frustration with long hold times; yet, companies must provide easy elevation of these interactions to phone call resolution in urgent situations so customers don’t become irritated.

Millennials are also driving companies to respond to social channels since this is where they are and where they have significant power to express their views and affect brand reputations. Many brands monitor social platforms so they can respond immediately to customers’ comments—both positive and negative.

In addition, companies are monitoring big data and analytics to pinpoint when and where customers are learning and buying online. Intimate knowledge of consumer behaviors is allowing these organizations to personalize messaging aimed at key targets such as millennials and other demographics.

Easy browser-to-browser interactions and flows of information are enabling companies to establish deeper relationships with customers, developing brand trust and loyalty that should well-serve both their customers and their business revenues.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

How to Leverage Social Media in the Fundraising Space

When it comes to social media, charitable organizations should take a page from the marketing playbook of for-profit businesses. The strategy to adopt: Grow your digital media presence to actively raise brand awareness, identify new donors, and engage with supporters.

While for-profit businesses now widely recognize the value of promoting their brand through an active social media presence, most not-for-profit organizations have been slow to adopt this tactic. Simply having a presence on social media platforms won’t do anything to increase donation levels if you aren’t actively engaging with your prime targets on a consistent basis. The “social” part of social media is the key to being active, so experiment with ways to be relevant and valuable to your audience. The resulting digital word-of-mouth will pay off in the form of enhanced brand loyalty, better customer service, and business legitimization.

Here are some ways for charitable organizations, and any organization, to make the most of social media:

  • Hire and train staff for social media management. Adding social media to a long list of responsibilities for your existing staff won’t be as successful as hiring dedicated staff to do the job. Building an active presence requires time and experience—qualifications your in-house team may not possess.
  • Gather data through customer interactions. The information you learn about people through social media can be used to identify potential donors who are passionate about your cause, and to craft more effective communications with them. You can also identify social media brand ambassadors—people who will be more likely to bring others into the fold and perhaps even serve as direct lines into communities.
  • Tap into social proof. Post information about your successful fundraising events, tweet good news about amounts raised, and encourage supporters to share personal stories related to the cause. The concept of social proof means that your audience interactions become almost like an endorsement of your organization to others. The larger the social network, the more trusted and, therefore, the more popular your not-for-profit becomes.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

The Three Legged Stool: Marketing, Sales and Customer Care

Running a successful business is no easy task. As much as we wish there was, there is no magic formula for success. There is, however, a well-proven strategy that today’s most successful companies use to achieve optimal results. Dubbed the “three legged stool,” this strategy involves marketing, sales and customer care working together toward a collective goal.

All too often marketing, sales, and customer care departments work in silos, rarely ever communicating or working with one another to create a better customer experience to drive sales. These three departments, however, are very much intertwined and rely on one another to succeed.

Think about it; the marketing team does the job of spreading brand awareness and attracting customers through a variety of channels. Once customers are in the funnel, sales then steps in and converts those leads into paying customers. And finally, the customer care department makes sure that the customer remains happy with the product or service.

While each department has its own set of duties, they all play an important role in onboarding new customers and retaining existing customers. In other words, if one leg of the stool is broken, it creates an unbalanced business strategy. Because of this, it’s important that all three departments successfully and effectively communicate and collaborate.

Collaborative technology is a key component to helping these departments work together. The right technology will enable each department to collect and share important customer data—such as a customer’s history, background, goals and previous contacts with the company—in one single, easy-to-use place.

You can’t expect to see success when your three most important departments aren’t working together. If you haven’t already, consider implementing collaborative technology that allows these departments to seamlessly communicate and share data.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

 

Improve Employee Engagement With Social Media Integration

Today’s digitally savvy customers are dialing back on 1-800 numbers and increasing their use of social media when contacting brands. More and more customers are opting to communicate with brands via social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, as opposed to traditional channels.

In fact, research from McKinsey shows that 30 percent of social media users prefer social care. In particular, the percentage of people who have used Twitter for customer service leapt nearly 70 percent, from 22 to 37 percent from 2013-14.

To take advantage of the popularity of social media, more companies are launching employee advocacy programs, which entail the promotion of an organization by its staff members. According to Altimeter Group’s “The 2015 State of Social Business Report” interest in employee advocacy has grown 191 percent since 2013, with 45 percent of respondents naming it a top external objective.

So what exactly is an employee advocacy program and how does it work? Essentially, it’s a program that is meant to generate positive awareness about a brand through social media. Designated brand advocates will discuss their positive experiences at work with their social media followers. For example, they might post a picture of a company outing to give customers a look into their company’s culture.

There are tons of benefits to launching an employee advocacy program. From a marketing perspective, companies experience an uptick in social media exposure. Oftentimes, employees have a much wider and diverse social media following, which means they are able to expose your brand to customers that you might not have the opportunity to reach before.

What’s more, these programs help attract and retain new customers as well as build trust. As past studies have shown, customers are more likely to trust product or service recommendations from friends, family or peers rather than a company itself. In addition, when customers have meaningful interactions with employees, a level or trust is formed.

Perhaps the most valuable benefit employee advocacy programs afford businesses is employee engagement. That’s right; employee advocacy programs don’t just benefit marketing, they also benefit the customer care department as well.

Giving employees the opportunity to advocate on behalf of your brand demonstrates to them that you trust them and think of them as invaluable members of your brand. In turn, employees are more likely to feel engaged and loyal to the brand. And when employees are more engaged they deliver better customer care. What’s more, employee advocacy programs encourage internal communication and collaboration, both of which keep employees highly engaged within your business.

While launching an employee advocacy program is a big undertaking—after all, there are a lot of steps to choosing the right employees and building out clear guidelines and goals—it can help your business improve its digital presence and increase employee engagement.  It’s a win-win situation for both customers and your bottom line. So what are you waiting for?

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Facebook Messenger Emerges As Customer Care Platform

Social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, have revolutionized the customer care industry as they not only help businesses better serve their customers, but they also enable companies build long-lasting relationships with their consumers.

If you visit our blog frequently you know that we regularly discuss the surge of social care initiatives that companies are putting forth in order to keep up with customers expectations. Recently, there’s been an uptick in companies leveraging Facebook Messenger as a form of customer care.

Facebook Messenger is an instant messaging service and software application integrated with Facebook’s web-based chat feature that provides users with text and voice communication. Similar to live chat, an increasing number of companies are starting to use this platform to communicate with their customers.

For example, hospitality industry giant, Hyatt, has teamed up with customer care solution, Conversocial, to roll out their Facebook Messenger initiative, which will enable Communicators to respond to guests’ inquiries and improve their overall travel experiences via Facebook.

Companies would be wise to follow in Hyatt’s footsteps and add Facebook Messenger to their list of customer care channels. Not only because it allows you and your customers to have two-way communication regarding issues or inquiries, but Facebook Messenger is widely popular amongst consumers.

In fact, research from Verto Analytics revealed that 800 million people use the Facebook Messenger app. What’s more, approximately 222 million U.S. Facebook users spend 14 hours per month in the company’s app. Indeed, this will be a valuable integrated marketing solution for any business as it combines social media with live chat and your consumers are already leveraging it in their everyday lives.

So, you might be eager to implement Facebook Messenger after reading these convincing statistics, but it’s important that you first educate your Communicators about the platform and ensure that they have the skills to deliver superior customer care via social media.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Twitter Soars to New Customer Care Heights

From social media to mobile apps, today’s consumers use a multitude of platforms and devices to communicate with brands and shop for products. In fact, most customers across a myriad of industries use multiple channels to communicate with brands.

According to research from PwC, 86 percent of global respondents and 65 percent of US-based respondents polled currently shop across at least two channels, while 25 percent of global respondents and 21 percent of US respondents are using four or five channels to shop.

With customers using anywhere from two to four channels to make purchases and communicate with brands, it’s becoming increasingly critical for businesses to employ a multichannel customer care strategy. This is especially true for social media, as its being leveraged more to manage customer care needs.

According to a separate study from Nielsen, nearly half of U.S. consumers use social media to ask questions, report satisfaction, or to complain. To meet the growing expectations for social media customer care efforts, many social media platforms are rolling out new products and features to help businesses deliver better customer care.

Twitter, for example, is working on a variety of tools that will help businesses better use its platform for customer care. For instance, the platform is working on a few features that will better prioritize requests for assistance that come through the platform.

While it’s great news that social media platforms like Twitter are developing features that will better address customer care, companies shouldn’t solely rely on social media to communicate with their customers. After all, today’s customers are using multiple channels.

As such, businesses should create a sophisticated multichannel customer care strategy that includes a variety of channels—such as live agent support, social media, live web chat—to increase overall engagement and satisfaction.

P.S. Speaking of Twitter…check us out, click here!

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Why CEOs Ought to Be More Visible to Their Audience

Today’s customers don’t want to jump from one business to another searching for the right fit. Rather, they want to build long-lasting, trusting relationships with the companies they do business with. Because of this, it’s become increasingly important for brands’ CEOs and C-level officials to be more visible and involved with their audience.

It’s easy for a busy CEO to delegate customer care responsibilities to employees without actually being immersed in the interactions. However, I believe it’s paramount to a company’s success to make employees at all levels of the corporate hierarchy visible to consumers in order to demonstrate transparency. One C-suite executive who is making waves in the customer care space for this very reason is John Legere the CEO of T-Mobile. He seems to be everywhere, making his presence known and gaining the trust and support of millions.

In fact, a recent article aptly described Legere’s approach to leadership as “in-your-face.” While in the past this might have seemed too aggressive, today it’s considered an effective business strategy, as consumers want to know who they are doing business with.

So how can CEOs and C-level officials channel their inner Legere and become a successful “in-your-face” leader? Below are various ways in which CEOs and C-level officials can interact directly with their customers on a more personal level:

Blogging: A great way to interact with your audience is by contributing to your company’s blog or monthly newsletter. For example, give your opinion on a hot topic within your industry or simply share a personal story that’s relevant to your audience. While you don’t have to blog every day, make an effort to do it once a month or quarter.

Social Media: Get active on social media. Whether you join a LinkedIn group or participate in a monthly Twitter chat, communicating with your audience via various social media platforms is a great way to show your presence and share exciting news about your company.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.