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When customer service is done right, a client walks away satisfied that their issue has been resolved. When it’s done spectacularly, they walk away feeling that the company they’ve just interacted with actually cares about them as an individual.This obviously is reflected by the tone of the conversation and the empathy shown by the agent, but also reflects the overall context of the request and subsequent engagement.

In the past that context was limited to phone, email, SMS and webchat, making it more costly for business and less effective for the user. But social channels have established a new dynamic that is significantly impacting the very foundation of customer service - creating a unique opportunity for a new win/win relationship where businesses can drive scale and cut costs while simultaneously improving the customer experience. Social channels demand human interaction, not scripted generic responses and as these channels become increasingly prevalent, the demand for humanity and authenticity has now spread to include those same legacy customer service channels.

So how can you infuse the lessons of social into your customer service system?

Be Authentic

The human element has become the most decisive ingredient in customer-brand interactions. Scripted dialogues should be a thing of the past, both literally and figuratively. Social engagement between customers and brands is renowned for its realness, playfulness, and conversational tone – and of course, immediate resolution. Legacy channels should be following suit. Managers must focus on not being afraid of spontaneity on the part of their representatives – being unscripted will cause the occasional mistake, but these can be made positive, and consumers are far more forgiving when they sense that the rep on the other end of the phone or computer is a human who understands them and genuinely wants to help. Take the training wheels and robotic shackles off your reps and let them be people – your customers will sense the change instantly and respond accordingly.

‘Social-izing’ Traditional Customer Service

Today, although social customer care is steadily gaining traction as a first-stop resolution option, old school platforms like phone, email, and webchat are by no means extinct. In fact, studies have shown that they are often the first choice for customers with particularly complicated issues, and that 57% of customers have had to switch from web to phone for one reason or another. This has compelled companies to figure out how to apply the lessons learned from social media customer engagements back to standard platforms like telephone and email. In other words: how do we socialize the legacy channels?

Social customer engagement was born not just from the newfound technological capabilities of instant messaging or tweeting, but just as importantly, from a culture of spontaneous, real, and human dialogue. The internet’s tradition of casual and immediate communications among private users hatched a similar cultural language of straightforwardness and real-talk between consumers and brands, devoid of the stiff, scripted corporate-speak which had always characterized these engagements. Twitter’s 140 character limit, in particular, forced a direct, honest type of communication, shedding the scripts almost by default.  

The Socially-Empowered Customer

Part of the impetus for social-based customer engagement from the beginning was the fact that it suddenly became incredibly easy for thrilled – but more often less-than-thrilled – customers to rant about their experiences on the global stage of the internet for all to witness. Yet, even more importantly, they were doing it from their own personal accounts, and not from an anonymous user name. The result was the convergence of a public stage and a personal relationship.

Brands were pushed to adapt their strategies, recognizing that these public engagements weren’t just classic customer service requests, but open displays of who their brand really is. The best customer service teams started to infuse their interactions with the very qualities that had come to define their brand in all other respects – marketing, advertising and the like – and the result was a new recognition that by responding with a human touch, they could not only resolve a complaint, but turn it into a huge victory for the brand.

From Public to Private

When these same tactics were applied to private channels, the same benefits applied and on an even deeper level. The growing trend of private messaging options being embedded into formerly exclusively public platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger created a unique opportunity for personal and direct engagement with customers on the very platforms where they spend the most time. Consumers are voting with their fingers, and the upswing in traction on these channels has been huge - private messaging has exploded and some messaging platforms are now bigger than the social media predecessors that spawned their creation.

Private, one-on-one engagement, where agents can be human and real is leaving a lasting impression on customers, increasing the likelihood of their return and improving their perception of the brand. From constant availability and speedy response times to issues like tone of voice and the nature of the actual responses, leading legacy engagement managers are increasingly adopting  these best practices to channels like phone, email and webchat. It’s increasingly clear that social customer service is changing the face of how customers want their brands to engage with them. It’s time for the legacy channels to join the fray - social is calling.

Joshua March is the CEO of Conversocial