How brands can benefit from self-service on Facebook
But what’s next? At the moment, it seems that many organisations with a business-to-consumer relationship have a Facebook or social media presence to some degree.
However, whilst most of these have a strong marketing presence dedicated to promoting their brand and products, few provide the ability for customers to self-serve.
What customer service elements they do have, tend to consist of either a discussion board or a method to reach an agent via a private messaging or chat session. It’s yet to be used for completing more transaction based self-service tasks such as paying a bill, giving a meter reading, or changing a tariff.
Dell and Asos are just two of a growing number of household brands that are looking at how they can deliver an effective self-service offering to their customers through the social networking site. But unfortunately, despite this commitment from big brands, many of these provisions offer the customer nothing new and are merely a launch pad to existing channels, whether it’s their brand website or contact centre. Orange and O2 are currently trying to bridge the gap by offering a top up app for pre-pay customers on their UK Facebook pages, but that’s about it.
Is this a missed opportunity?
VoxGen recently conducted consumer research to understand the reactions of the public to self-service provided via smartphone and Facebook apps. What we found was that whilst there is a healthy appetite for multi-channel self-service solutions, Facebook wasn’t ‘top of mind’ when people think of self-service, rather it was perceived to be more about social interaction and communication than ‘transaction’. However, that is to be expected if customers are not familiar with or routinely using the channel as a way to self-serve. The usefulness and relevance of the channel for self-service is dependent on context – the company, the brand, the demographic of your users and the task. These all play a huge part in determining whether you should utilise Facebook for your business, and how beneficial it will be to your customers.
So what should you do about it?
Organisations need to respond by building solutions that complement and enhance their existing customer service channels. Those which fail to invest in new systems and infrastructures will, if they are not careful, miss out on key opportunities to streamline the entire customer journey. Facebook may not be right for everyone, but the reality is that it does have the potential to be truly revolutionary and transform the way certain groups of customers interact with businesses.
You may think investment in a multi-channel solution is essential, but don’t feel like you should rush into developing services on Facebook or other online channels straight away. Before you do anything you need to identify what the main drivers are for customer contact. You need to understand the customer needs and the user journey in order to learn when, where and how they want to contact you and whether or not Facebook can enhance that model and help you to deliver a better service to your customers.
Essentially you need to ask yourself:
1. What are your customers trying to achieve?
2. Which self-service tasks are relevant to offer through Facebook?
3. How will the customer journey be improved by enhanced availability of functions across channels?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you then need to look at the demographics of the channel you want to harness and ask – what would be the reason for service via Facebook as opposed to other channels? In the UK, 50% of Facebook users are aged between 18 and 34: do your customers match this demographic? This is perhaps the most important question you need to ask yourself before you even begin thinking about establishing a new self-service solution. There is no point creating a solution which doesn’t add value to your customers.
Once you have evaluated the merits of a Facebook solution, you need to make sure that it is fully integrated with your wider multi-channel experience. The experience needs to be seamless and consistent across customer touch-points. Channels shouldn’t be designed or considered in silo, but as part of the end-to-end customer journey. You also need to take stock of what you offer. Can customers find the information they need from your website? Is your IVR effective in providing self-service or directing customers to the right information or agent group?
Getting good customer experience right isn’t easy, especially when you’re supporting a variety of channels that need to offer a consistent and positive experience. Make sure your decision to consider Facebook isn’t triggered by poor customer experiences with your existing contact channels.
Can brands benefit from self-service on Facebook?
Yes, as long as it is relevant to your business and your customers. Facebook is not yet synonymous with self-service, so consumers will not automatically turn to it. Like the early days of eCommerce, you therefore need to establish an effective marketing and migration strategy, in order to educate customers – about its alternative uses and benefits – and allay any possible concerns surrounding security and privacy. If you do, you’ll have an opportunity to differentiate and engage more deeply with consumers and reduce the cost to serve.
So if customers recognise the convenience of self-service via Facebook they’ll be ready to “like” the next evolution in multi-channel customer service.
Kerry Robinson, Chief Commercial Officer, VoxGen.