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Social Care, Analytics and the Retail Customer Experience

“Know your customer” has been a retail rallying cry for the past several decades. As businesses continue to evaluate and segment data to understand their customers’ likely buying behaviors, they are rapidly replacing existing and outmoded product-centric programs with strategies focused on improving customer experience. The challenge retailers now face is how to enhance and personalize the customer experience, so as to generate an emotional bond between the consumer and the brand—regardless of the communication channels employed throughout the relationship.  

But let’s step back for a moment and discuss the sweeping technological phenomena known as Social Media. What began as a way for people to stay connected has evolved into the dominant platform for information gathering. It has overthrown TV, radio and print as the preferred media source for a growing percentage of the population, and as ‘cord cutters’ continue to rise, advertising dollars are shifting away from cable and satellite services, and are being reallocated towards content consumption on increasingly sophisticated smart devices.  

As these extensive technological changes continue, and growing consumer demand and the ever-increasing number of web-based communication platforms push e-commerce to center stage, it’s imperative not to lose sight of drivers and indicators of buying behavior; this is particularly critical for Millennial and Generation Z consumers. Incorporating an intelligent social learning analytics platform into your existing CRM workflow (either on your own or through a customer care service provider) can help unlock valuable consumer data, including which social connections are most influential in their purchasing decisions. Insights from these analytics enable retailers to better know their customers and improve their experiences, and these insights also enable content providers to refine their products and to make smarter decisions based on customer preference. The emerging area of social care—the efforts of caring for customers using social media—is becoming a reality of day-to-day business operations for retailers. Marketers, retailers and marketplace merchants recognize the tremendous opportunity to enhance their customer journey by providing social media support, yet many struggle to prove the qualitative and quantitative value of their efforts.  

Retailers are being pushed into social care by engaged, social-savvy consumers who are posting questions of the retailers on social networks. The magnitude of these communications can seem overwhelming, with many companies struggling to successfully manage the volume of inquiries. The good news, is that not all social posts are created equal—they don’t all require a response. Robust listening platforms along with strategies to prioritize posts can make responding to social media communications manageable and effective. In addition, while the goal is to serve customers in the channel of original contact, channel redirection will likely remain an issue for many retailers. Channel redirection occurs when a customer asks a question in a channel that isn’t able to support an appropriate response. For example, if a customer asks a question on Twitter, the retailer may not be able to sufficiently address the inquiry in 140 characters or less. For some context, the previous sentence contains 146 characters. Likewise, a customer may need to share sensitive account information, thus requiring a more private, secure channel such as phone, chat or email.  

Although channel redirection ensures that customer questions are answered, it raises problems for measuring performance and customer satisfaction levels. But fear not! Fortunately, there are technology platforms for social customer care that are quickly evolving to address these issues.  

Metrics are an essential component when evaluating the effectiveness of a social care program. Traditional social media metrics (“likes”, “followers,” etc.) are valuable, but they don’t necessarily provide insight into important areas—like the level of customer satisfaction across multiple channels when channel redirection occurs. Both quantitative and qualitative metrics are important elements in a balanced social care effectiveness overview. Bringing this continually maturing channel into the framework of your support center will help solidify it as a valuable component of your customer retention strategy.  

Lastly, consider partnering with your user community. It’s a good idea to deploy YouTube customer support responses and developing guided self-help solutions to some of your most frequently asked questions (FAQs) when possible. As the second most-used search engine by Generation Z, YouTube can help you provide a concierge-level experience to a savvy consumer while reducing your company’s overall support cost. Avenues for guided self-service, including video FAQs and tutorials, provide a path of great value for your users while allowing agents to focus on more involved user requests. This nets you a win/win outcome—higher satisfaction levels for all customers, and a more strategic deployment of internal resources—both of which can impact your bottom and top lines.  

Today’s retailers stand at a crossroads—evolve existing practices to meet and exceed the expectations of your customers, or stand by as your competition makes these changes and outperforms you in the marketplace. Don’t let customers pass you by—start planning your social care, channel redirection and guided self-service strategy today—because your success depends on it!

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