Forrester Analyst Shares Social Customer Service Best Practices

Quality customer service is the backbone of every successful retail organization. By ensuring customers are satisfied, retailers can generate long-term loyalty, which is a key source for long-term revenue and brand advocacy.

During the webinar, titled: Get Serious About Social Customer Care, retail industry experts discussed the importance of customer service; the business effects of good and bad experiences; and how retailers can deliver a great consumer experience through changing communication patterns.

“Good customer experiences have a quantifiable revenue impact,” said Kate Leggett, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. “A happy customer is a loyal one, and loyal customers are more likely to spend their wallets with companies over the long term.”


Leggett shared a variety of Forrester research findings that confirmed the need for exemplary customer service. For example, 52% of consumers said they would abandon an online purchase outright if they couldn’t find a quick answer to their questions.

Social customer care tools and solutions enable retailers to connect with consumers, as well as react to questions and complaints quickly and efficiently. According to Forrester, merchants that leverage social customer service have experienced a variety of benefits, including:

  • Improved customer loyalty (26%);
  • Increased customer satisfaction (24%);
  • Reduced support costs and incoming support calls (16%); and
  • Improved agent efficiency (8%).

“If you don’t invest in social technology as a way to reach out to, communicate with and support your customers, you really run the risk of being left behind,” Leggett said. “Overall, it’s a competitive disadvantage.”

Mastering A Strategy

To improve customer service strategies via social media, Leggett advised that retailers develop a foundation built on four elements:

  1. The Right Data: By understanding target customers, retailers will be able to determine the most effective channels for customer service. For some organizations, mobile apps and social channels may be useful. But for others, call centers might be best. Retailers should identify the key channels customers want to communicate through, and tap them to provide customer service.
  2. The Right People: Retailers should train and empower agents in specialized roles based on their talents and skill sets. A savvy writer would be a good candidate for working in social channels, while an eloquent speaker can find success through phone support. Agents must be empowered with the information they need to track, analyze and respond to cross-channel dialogue.
  3. The Right Tools: Technology investments should be made based on the ways target customers want to interact with a retailer. Simple issues can be answered swiftly through a “frequently asked questions” section on a web site, but there still are complicated issues that need to be addressed by a customer service representative via phone, social media or email.
  4. The Right Alignment: Customer care strategy and company strategy should be aligned. Companies doubling down on their customer service programs can expect to see large gains in revenue.

Customers ultimately want companies to understand who they are, whether it’s through social, email or the call center. Retailers must train agents to empathize with customers, and empower them to provide personalized and memorable experiences that will build brand faith and loyalty, according to Katy Keim, CMO of Lithium.

“The channels of communication will continue to change but the basic business metrics are timeless,” Keim said. “Whether it’s Twitter, service in a store or a phone book, we want to look at how these agents are interacting with our customers.”

Becoming A Customer Service Trailblazer

Call centers still are top priority for organizations’ customer service efforts (60%), according to research from Forrester and Lithium. Web self-service (56%), email (30%), social media (22%), and online FAQ pages (24%) gradually are gaining traction in overall importance.  

However, many organizations are not reaching the full potential of social customer care: Keim noted that 70% of tweets directed to brands are ignored, and 95% of customers’ posts on a brand’s Facebook wall are addressed. “Leaving all these queries and requests is like letting phones ring without answer them. Our customers aren’t going to tolerate it for long.”

Companies that master the digital support space are gaining free promotion through word-of-mouth, Keim reported. Retailers that have models in place to scale social questions and requests, prioritize inquiries and assign the right people to the right customer service roles will be laying down “a strong foundation for future markets.”

Because customer service through social channels still is a relatively new strategy, consumers are surprised and grateful when brands are responsive and interactive on Facebook, Twitter and other sites.

“Now is the time to delight,” Leggett stated. “This is the time for companies to make names for themselves as great customer service providers.”


Click here to access an on-demand version of the webinar.

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