Why Service and Marketing Must be United on Social

If you haven't ventured over to REI’s social accounts lately, you should. Something amazing is happening. For years, we’ve been told that silos between marketing and customer service are just facts of life–something to expect. But right there for the world to see, REI customer service replies are looking like, feeling like, and even using the same words as their other posts. It's common knowledge at the enterprise level that silos wreak havoc. But how to fix the problem? REI breaks theirs down through social, a channel more visible and real-time than any other. Social should be your brand's first responder: available to support your customers whenever they want to reach out.

The management of social channels is evolving at a mind-numbing pace. Customer expectations, network features, and, as a result, business responsibilities have grown, creating pressure on different teams responsible for handling social channels. According to recent Forrester research, (Use Social To Bridge The Gap Between Marketing And Customer Service, January 2017, Forrester), one of the most significant hurdles preventing brands from excelling in this new reality is the support team and the marketing teams not being on the same page. Further, the authors of the report, Ian Jacobs and Erna Alfred Liousas, say that when brands don’t tackle these silos, “customers lose.”

Whens brands don’t tackle silos between service and marketing, “customers lose.”

 

On the flipside, creating alignment can pay dividends. Customers enjoy a better and more consistent experience, and brands gain more control of the customer journey. Let’s explore six great benefits businesses reap when service and marketing unify on social.

Consistent brand voice

REI recently dedicated the remainder of 2017 to promoting gender equality in the great outdoors. The effort is called Force Of Nature: it tells stories the stories of women outdoors, features female-oriented adventure gear, and of course, boasts a hashtag. So when REI’s marketing team publishes a post on the latest women’s rock climbing gear, which was finally brought up to the same standards men have enjoyed, the folks replying are right there with them. For a brand to truly live its values on its shoulders—that is, on its public social channels—marketing and support must be united.

REI's marketing team heralded their #forceofnature campaign, but it was their support team that responded to a fan who contributed a photo of her daughter with a large stick held high, feeling brave.

Marketing owns the voice of the company, while service owns that voice's support. Both are well versed in talking to customers and prospects. Marketing's responsibility is to ensure what they say to customers matches—in literal terms and in tone of voice—how service is responding. When REI's support team uses the marketing-borne #forceofnature hashtag, they reinforce marketing's message and unify the brand's voice.

Marketing owns the voice of the company, while service owns that voice's support.

 

Unified customer experience

I recently purchased a GMC. After the enthusiastic, smiling, and incredibly friendly salesperson handed me the keys, I was back just a day or so later for some follow-up services. And what do you know? An equally enthusiastic, smiling and incredibly friendly service person was there to greet me right when I pulled in. Car dealers learned a long time ago that offering an excellent customer experience anywhere the customer interacts with their brand is not only a differentiator but something they can use in marketing. Brands should take this same approach on social: no matter how a customer wants to interact with a brand, they should expect a cohesive experience.

Smarter planning

Recently, Spredfast’s vice president of Research and Insights, Chris Kerns, created one of my favorite quadrants ever (nerd alert). It describes the various scenarios a marketing team could encounter on social and was originally designed to help brands understand real-time marketing. But, with a bit of rewording, it works perfectly to help brands get service and marketing on the same page when it comes to the type of scenarios they may encounter with their marketing content.

  • Planned messages: These are scheduled social posts that your brand plans well ahead of time, which can include everything from daily engagement to huge product announcements. These are the messages you control.

  • Agile messages: These are opportunities that may arise or problems that pop up during events that are known well in advance. For example, the Oscars botching the best picture announcement and your brand deciding to make a post about it.

  • Watchlist messages: These are known topics that could bring about a totally unanticipated headache. Example: the President of the United States decides to tweet about your pending military contract.

  • Left-field messages: These are things you know nothing about that flare up on a semi-regular basis. Wendy’s could not have predicted that their response of “18 million” to a kid who asked how many retweets it would take to get chicken nuggets free for a year would turn into the hashtag #nuggsforcarter (and become the most retweeted tweet of all time).

In every quadrant, coordination between marketing and customer support makes the brand’s overall response smarter. Giving visibility to the support team on the upcoming editorial calendar pays dividends: proper resource planning can be allowed for, FAQs written, and response language pre-approved. A huge win for most teams? For marketing to simply let customer support know what posts are upcoming, what big brand events are planned and what external events the brand plans on engaging in.

A holistic view of the customer

Stellar customer experiences are the foundation for loyalty and advocacy, but you can’t expect the customer to feel the love if they are greeted like a stranger every time they reach out because of your internal set-up. As Forrester says: “Customers don’t care about your internal organizational silos”. (Use Social To Bridge The Gap Between Marketing And Customer Service, January 2017, Forrester.)

You can't expect a customer to feel the love if they're greeted like a stranger every time they reach out.

 

When the service and marketing teams have a united view of their audience, everyone wins. The marketing team gains valuable information about the people who are contacting the brand and for what purpose—helping to identify influencers and better segment their audiences. The support team has a full interaction history, meaning they don’t need to dig around or ask the customer for information they have already given in previous interactions. The customer therefore gets a personalized experience tailored to their particular location, status, and personal preference.

Data to influence the rest of the business

Brands use social data to inform product decisions and trigger PR responses on the marketing side. The most advanced companies have also included information gathered via social support channels into their day-to-day decisions—like helping to influence the type of products that need to be on the shelves, tracking the most commonly reported issues on a product, or helping R&D make decisions on product direction. Social care data can help with triggering recalls, informing press releases, and understanding if the brand has “permission” to lean in on an inevitable controversy—or should stay far away.

The marketing team knows what the macro trends on social are, and the support team can spot potential PR threats early–information that can be used to prepare the service teams for a crisis and raise alarm bells if needed. The customer support team can, well, support its marketing team, too. The support team can help the marketing team understand when a brand wants to lean into a conversation, or even what messaging is working best.

Breaking down social silos with technology

“Technology to the rescue!” says the technology marketer. But it’s true. It’s the origin of why we (Spredfast) exist. Facebook, Twitter, and a dozen other channels have made it super easy for someone to reach out to your brand–both publicly and privately–but brands historically lacked a unified interface or controls for the tens, even hundreds, of people who work for the brand that needs access to those channels. It’s technology, specifically Spredfast, that allows for teams across the company to control company social accounts. Spredfast provides a holistic picture of customers on social, keeping track of history and influence. Spredfast also provides visibility into planned content, collaboration between teams via chat, workflows between groups, and enables shared asset libraries.

Establishing an integrated social strategy is only half the battle: marketing and support teams must unify on the technology platform that drives this strategy. It's what makes all of the benefits possible: ensuring your company's values truly come across to customers, no matter where they're interacting with your brand.

But how?

The natural rub with having two chefs in the kitchen if you will is: who will do what? If marketing and support are together on social, it must be clear who will address which types of interactions, on which channels, and to what extent. Typically, in the “best of both worlds” scenario, the marketing team owns proactive messages, focusing on brand awareness, lead generation, conversion and driving positive mentions of their brand. The support team will react, handling questions, problems, and complaints. Basically, if it the content is negative or requires some action from the business, it likely belongs to the support team.

Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and ask: can more be done to improve the way your business communicates with people? Customer interactions on social offers brands too valuable of an opportunity to not get right. Forrester offers great advice on how you can be using social to bridge the gap between marketing and customer service.

To find out more about how Spredfast can help you tackle the divide between support and marketing at your enterprise, request a demo today.

Editor's note: Forrester just named Spredfast a leader in the New Forrester Wave™: Social Media Management Systems, Q2 2017. Read our blog post to find out more about the benefits of uniting service and marketing teams—and why Spredfast was lauded for our platform's ability to do so.

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In Josh’s role as VP of Product Marketing, he shapes how we take our software and services to market. He and his team help identify and understand growing market trends and challenges in order to inform product strategy and broadly communicate how Spredfast connects the world’s businesses to the people they care about most.