Where Social Customer Care Lives:

Should Marketing or Support Teams Lead the Charge?

Hiding just below the surface on any given brand’s social media page is the fact that nearly 95% of social interactions a brand has are 1:1. This is according to recent research from Spredfast, which showed that the majority of brand activity on social is not publishing, but instead conversations between a brand and a person. This number is actually up 2% from last year. Alongside this increase, channels like Facebook Messenger and Twitter Direct Messages have added many features to encourage even more 1:1 interactions, making it incredibly easy for a person to reach out to the brands they care about.

The big question facing many organizations right now is: Who should own these channels from a support standpoint? Does responsibility lie with the experts in social on the marketing team, or the experienced service professionals on the customer support side? The answer to that question is unfortunately not as clear-cut as you might want it to be.

To help guide your business’s decision, which is of course unique to your company culture and ultimately determined based on resources, goals, and staffing, I thought I would outline the case for each argument:

Social care should live in marketing

The why: The marketing team understands the nuances associated with each social network and has better instincts around what a successful engagement on social means. This is usually the path of least resistance, as most social programs are already housed in marketing and they have likely historically provided support. Almost more importantly, they are in a better position to understand what the person on the other end of that interaction needs—and how to not turn that interaction into an embarrassing situation. Marketing, is of course, by its nature, motivated by revenue generating activities and can turn support activities into moments of delight by rewarding through “fan love” programs.

Your marketing team will have great instincts around what successful engagement on social looks like.

 

Social care should live in support

The why: On the other hand, the call center agents have plentiful experience in dealing with the variety of issues unique to your business, the internal knowledge to better handle an engagement to a satisfying result for the customer, and the call center will offer better sophistication around reporting and process in general. They already work across a variety of channels and social is just yet another place for them to monitor. In many ways, if your company deploys marketing for social care and support for all other channels you are essentially paying for duplicative teams not held to the same standards. The experience and ultimate resolution may vary widely from normal support channels to social. Support teams, by their nature, are motivated by making and keeping customers happy.

Is there a best of both worlds? Social care should be divided.

What if you took those social folks in marketing and free them to focus on brand awareness or lead generation and just handle the “good stuff” on their pages, while allowing the department you already pay to provide support handle problems or inquiries? Generally, the split can be pretty easy on paper. If the inbound content is negative in nature and requires some action by the business internally to solve, it belongs to care. If the tweet or page post is more positive in nature—or even neutral—it can be up to the marketing side to take some action.

This scenario also allows for so-called “brand or fan love” teams to be created. These teams act in a number of creative ways, like finding mentions or topics through search terms, engaging with a competitor's customers, providing an offline experience of “delight,” acting as an advisor or thought leader, or presenting an opportunity to purchase.

My take

In my opinion, it is best to map out the qualities you want in your team, experience you want for your customers, and level of support you wish to provide. Then, you can work backwards from there—whether that ultimately means means identifying folks within the call center who show a knack for social and carving off a social team or spinning up some community managers whose role it is to identify opportunities for proactive support. One resource I have found incredibly helpful comes from the head of Capital One’s social: it’s a list of skills to look for in the people you deploy to the front lines of social support. Ask yourself the following:

  • Passionate about Customer Experience – Do they really care about making things right for customers?
  • Problem Solvers – Will an agent be able to solve the complex issues that come through social?
  • Great Judgment – Will an agent be able to determine when to and not to respond to sensitive issues?
  • Excellent Written Communication – Is the agent able to craft replies in a conversational, non-scripted way?
  • Multi-taskers – Can the agent juggle multiple issues at once and partner with others within your organization to get the problem resolved?

In some cases, businesses are carving headcount from the call center and either putting them under Marketing with a line to support or under support with a line to marketing. It really comes down to what your organization is willing put an emphasis on. Unifying marketing operations, technology, and leadership under the same roof has tremendous benefits and shows the organization is serious about social customer care.

Ultimately, budget is largest factor in where the responsibility for dealing with support issues on social ends up. If the business is serious about providing great support via social channels and the internal will is present, budgets materialize. Crisis or some public embarrassment that exposes a company's social support inadequacy also drives budgets to materialize.

Budget is the largest factor determining where social support lives in your organization.

 

It’s important to always remember that the person on the other side of that tweet or private message doesn’t care what’s going on under the hood. They expect a fast response that can address whatever issue they have. And as we all know, the networks are just getting started with support features on their channels, which means even more increase in 1:1. From Spredfast’s perspective, the software we build has to accommodate all of the above scenarios and in any configuration. No matter what, we’ll provide training and strategies to effectively provide social support.

But that’s just my opinion: What say you? Where do you think social customer care should care live?

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Austin Lytle is a Director, Product Marketing at Spredfast where he works with customers and the Spredfast product team to make sure we are delivering the world's best social software platform. Austin spent three years running political campaigns in Texas and Louisiana. A New Orleans native, he is avid cyclist and lover of music and wine.