Most businesses’ social media strategies begin life in the communications department, but there can come a time when your comms team needs to stop acting as a de facto customer help desk.
For most businesses, a social media strategy begins as another way to talk to customers – establishing your web cred while notifying people of important events such as product launches or upcoming sales. This is obviously a natural fit for the communications department, where Facebook and Twitter sit alongside your website, newsletters and other traditional customer communication channels.
The next phase of your social media strategy might be to embark on a social media monitoring program to see what people are saying about you. Of course, the strength of social media is that it’s a two-way communications channel. As soon as customers realise that you’re listening they’ll start talking to you about all kinds of things. Once they start asking for help to resolve support issues, the load on your comms team can increase dramatically.
When customer support requests are only coming in dribs and drabs, it might not be too much of a burden. Your comms team might be happy to handle basic requests for information or else act as a go-between for the customer service department, rather than refusing to help customers and telling them to pick up the phone, send in an email or walk up to the front desk.
But the more support you offer via social media, the more your customers will expect and a growing number of customers will start using social media as their primary communications channel – expecting a tweet or Facebook message to garner the same respect as a call, email or letter.
Your communications team can become overwhelmed by social media, especially if it’s forced to scour the organisation looking for answers to obscure questions and support requests. Even a dedicated social media team can struggle if its primary training is in customer communications and it doesn’t have access to customer support scripts and other resources.
At this point it’s time that your comms team stopped acting as a de facto help desk and you started handing those social media requests directly to your customer service team – the people best trained to deal with them.
Expanding social media access into the wider business is not a decision you should rush into.
Along with the technical challenges and workflow management issues, it’s also a question of extending your social media training and Acceptable Usage Policies to cover other staff. These processes all take time and it’s worth considering a pilot phase with a few tech-savvy members of your customer support team, rather than jumping in head first.
If you can see the writing on the wall, don’t wait until your comms team is overwhelmed by customer support requests before you act.
Start planning for it now, so you’re ready to make a smooth handover when Facebook and Twitter become the first port of call for customers in their time of need.