From Reactive to Proactive: The Evolution of Social Customer Service

By: Sofie De Beule

July 20, 2016

personal service
social customer service
social customer service maturity
social media monitoring
social media response time
social media team

A lot of companies are at different stages in implementing social customer service into their business strategy. Some really lead the way while other companies are clearly falling behind, some even struggling with the core basics. As more than 65% of companies consider social customer service a short-term business priority, you can’t afford to neglect your social customer service program, no matter how mature it is.

Let’s take a look at how social customer service has progressed over time and has advanced together with rising expectations of customers.

1. Responding to Customers Via Native Social Platforms

In the early days of social customer service, after businesses identified the need to use social media as a means for two-way communication instead of broadcasting marketing messages, social customer service was purely reactive. Businesses manually managed the inflow of messages through the native platforms out of pure necessity. It was a tough job to handle, and messages often slipped through the cracks, leaving customers’ voice unheard.

That didn’t stop customers from using social. As volumes of incoming queries started to grow and more customers jumped on the social customer service bandwagon (and demanded a faster response), so did the need for a more scalable solution.

2. Responding to Urgent Messages & Offering Personalized Service Via Tools

With the rise of tools to manage the inflow of messages and scale your efforts came a lot of new opportunities to respond in a timely manner. However, social media teams often have limited resources and their engagement strategy is still very much a work in progress. Urgency is key–in this stage of social customer service, companies focus on replying to the most pressing messages by only responding to those specifically directed to them (e.g. @-mentions).

Beyond urgency, quality has become pivotal too; customers really feel the need for a personal response and a human approach to service, and companies in this stage respond with a distinct tone of voice. As engagement strategies have started to mature and companies started reaping the benefits, they are getting more buy-in from management to allocate more resources which allows them to dedicate more time to really engage with customers, and focus on forging stronger relationships.

3. Advanced Monitoring & Strong Emphasis on Response Time

Beyond responding to @-mentions, at this point, companies are monitoring their brand throughout the entire social web. As over 70% of customers are now expecting to get a response in just one hour, there’s a strong need for a timely response. A lot of companies are now at this stage or want to move to this stage. Increasingly, more complex and diverse questions are coming in.

The need for faster, more quality responses calls for advanced team workflows and monitoring capabilities. Companies need to make sure they don’t miss out on messages and that they can easily route messages to internal experts. Moreover, social customer service teams are starting to expand and grow, and business are measuring their performance both on a team and individual level on a day-to-day basis.

4. Proactive Outreach: Closing the Loop

More companies are adopting a customer-centric culture and are putting their customers at the forefront. They recognize social media as a means for customers to reach out to brands as well as engage proactively with customers, and are embedding that idea into their entire company, among other support channels like telephone or email support.

Companies that are leading the way anticipate issues and are using social media as a soundboard to improve their business, implementing the wealth of information and passing it on to the right department. They reach out proactively to customers even before they even have an issue.

Over the years, social customer service has evolved along with the growing, more demanding needs of customers. It’s your customers who determine your social customer service strategy. To become a customer-centric company, you need to start reaching out proactively, and anticipate before issues occur.