6 Predictions for Social Customer Care in 2017
Last year was the first time I felt like I was taking a true inventory of which brand provided what on social to solve a problem. Changing a seat with an airline on Twitter, checking my order status with a national retailer, not getting a response at all from an investment bank—I just seemed to have a better memory and sense of who I could trust to address an issue on social and what level of support I could expect. Where 2016 acted like a nightlight, helping consumers adjust their eyes a bit to vaguely make out what is available to them, 2017 will be more like a searchlight, seeking out brands not providing care on social and making it obvious they need a change.
In thinking about what to expect from brands in 2017 that provided excellent care in 2016, I have a few predictions, trends, thoughts on what we will see over the next year.
6 Top 2017 Trends in Social Care
1. Teams will bring social care data to the rest of the company.
Or, put more accurately, the rest of the company will realize what social care data can provide for them. Brands have used social data to inform product decisions or trigger PR responses for years now. What will be new for many of the most advanced care brands is folding information gathered via social support channels into their own day-to-day decisions—like helping to influence the type of products that need to be on the shelves, or tracking the most commonly reported issues on a product, or helping R&D make decisions on product direction. Ultimately, social care data can help with triggering recalls, press releases, and understanding if the brand has “permission” to lean in on a certain controversy or should stay far away.
Social data can help a brand understand whether to lean in on controversy or stay far away.
2. Private messaging will continue to find a home.
Chatting a brand in the same screen you chat with your friends is a great experience. Putting brands on blast via social media is hopefully a thing of the past for me. For starters, it is certainly not my best look—and has it really changed anyone else’s opinion? When I see it from other people, does it really change my mind? Has anyone actually cancelled a flight because they saw someone venting about a 2-hour delay? Don’t get me wrong, public mentioning of brands will continue to serve as a nice check, but the ease and convenience of a private message will become the preferred channel for both brands and consumers, relegating public mentions for brands that go above and beyond to solve an issue.
3. Social care support will incorporate “premium” options.
Every time I land a certain status tier with an airline I always receive some sort of direct phone line reserved for those with that status. There is no reason social could not offer something similar, whether this means the networks create an invite-only handle or brands use a platform like Spredfast to apply labels to a person for quicker response or routing to a crack team. Brands that already have existing loyalty programs, are in highly competitive industries, or are in high fashion will begin using these “premium” channels to augment their existing alternative channels and offer something exclusive.
4. The networks will continue to invest in social care.
There were many intentional steps this year by Facebook and Twitter to differentiate the experience of messaging a brand vs., for example, a Star Wars chat group you have with your friends. While they want to maintain ease and familiarity within their chat areas, there will be many features added in the coming year to allow brands to collect more types of information more quickly, or to better indicate the types of support they can expect. The networks will also try to increase awareness of their channels as service channels, and not just among brands either. They will increase education to their users on using social for support.
Editor's note: Sure enough: on January 25th, Facebook announced that they will now allow brands to show ads within FB Messenger.
5. Automation will expand—and not just with bots.
There is no way to talk about 2017 and customer service without mentioning bots. And as 2017 unfolds, you will certainly see continued adoption of bots to handle the easy and predictable. Beyond that, expect this to be the year bot makers continue to make huge strides at improving the AI that powers them, but not being ready for primetime. But bots will not be the only area of automation. For brands that use systems like Spredfast, creating features that allow for greater efficiencies, letting people get faster responses and freeing up internal resources to work on greater ranges of issues, is paramount. So, I expect more automation of internal processes, which is something the average consumer may never know about, but will appreciate.
2017 will see the continued adoption of bots to handle the easy and predictable.
6. Integrations and open platforms will become key.
While social care may be operationally secluded in many organizations, the pressure from users to seamlessly move from one channel to the next and other departments wanting access to data will continue to rev up in 2017. This will create demand for better integrations between CRM, marketing systems, data aggregators, social networks and third party software providers like Spredfast. There is no company that serves all of these functions in a great way, so best-in-breed providers must do more to make their platforms open.
Plus One More Bonus:
More of a burning question for me in 2017, rather than a prediction is just how, if at all, the networks plan to monetize their care channels. I’m not sure you'll see any overt moves in this area this year, but the question remains: Does the future hold some kind of ads component in the private message? Just what data marketers will want to use to target or retarget based on their private message content will be fun to watch play out.
So what about you—what are your 2017 predictions for social care, and beyond, in digital marketing?