Social Care Is Marketing: Celebrate It

This post originally appeared on Social Media Today. Image courtesy of KLM.

The Evolution of Social Care

Social media has gone from being the last resort for desperate customers to being the first channel of outreach for many. For many customers, a company’s social presence has become the face of brand, and the front door to all interactions. It cannot live in a vacuum, disconnected from wider marketing efforts.

Most companies’ customers are already conversing on social. Conversations are already taking place, with or without a brand’s involvement.  And the team manning a social care presence are an organization’s first line of defense for protecting brand voice and its core values.

As a result, marketing teams must work with the customer service organization to build a social care team whose members understand the importance of the brand and how to join the social conversation in a consistent voice.

New Social Care Programs Need Preparation

Growth and expansion of social care usually doesn’t include a clear-cut or simple progression. Implementing a new program takes planning, strategy, and a lot of preparation. While brands and organizations understand the extreme value of being where their customer base is conversing, in many cases social [customer] care is not considered a true “face of the brand” across marketing efforts, both social and traditional.

Many brands and organizations are still in the middle of wrapping their arms around social media marketing, and adding the social care conversation to the mix can be overwhelming.

Adding to this hesitation, brands and organizations are beginning to realize that just dipping in a toe into the social care use case is not possible. Simply put, there’s no trial period. This requires commitment to the cause, change management and a realization of the challenges that will come along the way.  

Focus on Training Agents

The primary focus should not be on the risk and time required to develop and implement a social care strategy. Instead, the focus should be building and training a team of social care agents or community managers that are well-versed brand voice that has been developed by their marketing team, while also possessing a passion for surprising and delighting customers.

Once that foundation has been laid, both marketing and social care teams will be able to celebrate the impact of the social care use case in a way that benefits the entire organization. That link is where the magic happens.

KLM - The Magic of Celebrating Social Care

Let’s look at a brand who took the time to not only develop their customer service organization as a major part of their business, but also emphasized the point of being where their customers were on social media: Twitter. KLM realized that social had become part of their business, and that they needed to engage where their customers were. As brand that has received accolades for the quality of their customer service organization as well one that “gets social media,” KLM is a leading example of the magic that can happen when marketing and social care teams work together.

The premise? The best promotion for customer service is great customer service. After building a strong social care team that understood and shared their brand voice and priorities, they began working with the marketing team to celebrate these wins in creative ways.

Earlier this fall the Internet fell in love with the first ever customer service beagle named Sherlock, whose mission was to return lost items to KLM passengers. Even though Sherlock turned out to be a K-9 allegory, he generated over 13 million YouTube views and promoted KLM’s commitment to providing excellent customer service.

Weeks later KLM continued to endorse its dedication to its customers with their #HappytoHelp social campaign. While there were no sightings of Sherlock, there was instead a staff of 250 KLM care representatives stationed in a social care command center. For five days they took on the world and offered to help anyone who utilized their hashtag, regardless of the airline they were flying. From wake-up calls, providing transportation to go retrieve forgotten passports and even serving breakfast to one traveler at the gate, the KLM team wowed with their personalization, creativity, and of course timeliness.

That original premise only holds true with a team that has been trained to not only serve its customers, but also join their conversations. Had KLM not invested the time in proving and establishing themselves as an airline that would go above and beyond for its customers, this campaign would have fallen flat. Beyond that, if the marketing team had not properly partnered with their social care team, the care would not have been able to support its customers during a high profile campaign, a certain failure indeed.

Both of these teams worked together to show, if done correctly, social care is marketing.

Hyatt - Building a Social Care Team that Cares

But how do you build a social care team so you can start celebrating like KLM? Hyatt knows that it lives as a brand, at the intersection of employees and guests. Providing exceptional customer service has been a longtime priority.

As social media began to have an impact on marketing and communications for brands, Hyatt rose to the challenge and made history in 2009 with the creation of @HyattConcierge, the first ever hotel concierge service on Twitter. With care teams in the US, Germany and Australia, the hotel chain has been able to monitor and engage with guests at nine different Hyatt brands. This year alone, the team has engaged over 50,000 conversations. Hyatt is able to do this is because social care staff are empowered with the ability to not only solve guest inquires and issues, but jointheir conversations to enhance the Hyatt experience.

At the 2014 Spredfast Summit, Dan Moriarty, Director of Digital Strategy and Activation at Hyatt, discussed what it takes to build a winning social care team. Knowing that there was no “beta test” for this particular use case, Moriarty and his team understood that there would be some bumps along the way. However, they also knew if they could focus on building a team of social care agents who were focused on caring for their guests rather than just serving them, some of those bumps could be avoided.

Adding to Moriarty’s talking points about the importance of building a team that cares, here are some additional points to consider:

1.  “Nothing matters more than the people behind social care.” Excellent customer service is at every aspect of the Hyatt guest experience, which is a contributing factor to the strength of their social care team. So when Hyatt is selecting team members to be the voice of their brand, they look for candidates who have guest-facing experience, understand the basics of social media, and have the drive to go above and beyond for their guests pre, during and post stay.

When building a social care team, take the time to find the right people. Make sure that they understand the culture of customer service and the importance that the social care role has for the entire company - this type of position is a privilege and is not a job that anyone can just walk into. Candidates should be able to show that they are quick thinking, resourceful and thorough in their responses, but also give the right dose of personality that is in line with the brand voice. And never underestimate the importance of having solid writing skills!

2.     “Invest in new methods of training those people.” For Hyatt, training had to adapt to reflect the realities of social. Since social media issues have a way of spreading and growing very quickly, the team had to be open to the possibility of anything. But they didn’t just leap in to social care without first referencing other customer service and wider structures. Evaluating how they could improve customer service on social was just as important as acknowledging what has worked well in traditional customer service.

If social never sleeps, then process and training methods shouldn’t either. Be sure to build and train on a social framework that gives an idea of how to respond, but leaves enough room for a team to make those quick, resourceful decisions that they were hired to do. If a team has been thoroughly trained in the brand voice that the marketing team manages, and has an understanding the importance of taking customer service, they’ll be able to make responses that are valuable to your customers and as a result, the entire organization.

3.     “Connection and education with marketing and operations teams will make or break the effort.” Hyatt has continually emphasizes connecting with and educating other teams in order to share their social wins and success stories. Working with the various marketing and operations teams has allowed them to showcase examples of exceptional guest experiences that began on social and were supported throughout their actual stay at a Hyatt property, which continually reinforces the brands voice and core values. They have also worked together to prepare for high traffic periods, as well as report back when they’re seeing various trends and triggers that are coming through their social channels.

Regardless of which team the message is coming from, if one group is off pitch it can tarnish the overall effort. In order to avoid these instances, make sure that teams are communicating and sharing both the positive and the negative findings often. Equally important, be sure to highlight and reward the exceptional examples between teams. By sharing these wins, the collective group will quickly learn and reinforce great habits and how to reproduce that success. 

When people come first and teams like marketing and social care work in tandem, success quickly follows. Hyatt set out to be the most social hotel brand in the hospitality industry by creating human, personable conversations that are at the heart of their guest experiences.

In June of 2014, they were recognized by Travel + Leisure with a SMITTY Award for the Best Customer Service on Social. And that’s something the marketing and social care teams can celebrate together.

Meghan Brindley's picture

Meghan Brindley

Meghan Brindley is an Associate Market Director for Spredfast. When she’s not working with prospects and customers to achieve their social goals, you can find her enjoying the sights and sounds of Austin, TX with her dog, a goldendoodle named Tyler.