Providing exceptional customer service has become a foundation for managing a business. Companies work towards focusing on minute details and information in trying to win the hearts of their customers in today’s competitive date. Times have changed from when consumers thought onsite customer service was adequate in assisting their needs, these days’ consumers want their company to be “accessible”, they want to be able to reach out to the customer service team wherever they are and get their problem solved. The trend for this era is constant connectivity and quick solutions, which have led the consumer to become rather impatient and in need for response within seconds.

Companies have looked into solutions like call centers, which are open around the clock and take calls from customers who have queries or are facing a problem with their service.  Live chat applications are also used by companies on their websites that allow visitors to engage in conversation with the customer service representative and get the help they need.

The wide spread emergence of the social network however has grasped a lot of attention and has changed the face of marketing and customer service to a great extent.  Famous social network companies like Facebook, Twitter and many others have recently been used as marketing tools by companies to reach out to its customers as well as try and make new ones. Companies can now respond instantly to the questions of their fans and show their interest by being available all the time to cater to their problems. This provides a sense of security in the mind of the customer who knows the customer service team is accessible to help and will instantly generate a solution.

Training Your Online Representative for Social Customer Service

The first step in ensuring good customer service is through providing multiple online and offline touch points that ensure to meet the customer’s specific needs for response. This will help the representatives to know which need of the customer they are catering to. Whether it’s a new customer trying to gain information about the business or an old customer wanting to complain or raise a query. Training of the staff is necessary so they can sift through the abundance of information and provide the right response.

Representative should be trained on how to engage with the customers and handle conversations. It is important that the rep is fully informed about the company, industry and their competitors and knows how to resourcefully use that information. They should also be able to analyze the responses of the customers so they can better equip themselves with future challenges.

  • It is essential that the social media team has a well thought out plan on how to be available all the time and to provide coverage to the constant connectivity needs by the consumers.
  • The online staff must be educated on the offerings of the product and service so they can answer promptly and correctly, without wasting any time or making critical mistakes because of lack of knowledge about the company and what exactly they provide.
  • Communication skills needs to be effective and clear, giving the rep the power to converse with the customer in a friendly and professional way catering the wide variety of people that come of varying backgrounds and have the tendency to react to simple situations in extreme ways. So keeping calm and dealing patiently, without offending the customers is a knack that the rep must master.
  • The staff must also be aligned and updated on the vision of the company and know what the brand stands for. They must be in line with the “brand voice” and speak like they have authority and can help the customer make decisions about the brand. Their interactions must be delivered with a personal touch to the customer so they don’t feel it’s an automated message or a general reply but catered specifically to the that particular client.
  • We advise that the online team should implement a CRM system that helps manage high volumes and traffic, allowing the business to manage their customers as well as track them.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management can be used in multiple forms when trying to serve the customer as well as further empowering customer engagement. CRM can be used to create, assign and manage requests made by customers as well as build up customer relationship through the use of social media. CRM systems integrate social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to track and communicate with customers sharing opinions and experiences with a company and its products and services.

The CRM helps to generate a complete profile of the customer and allows the team to track and manage the online and offline social interactions between the customer and the representative. This helps the company maintain data about its existing customers as well as potential ones allowing the company to make business and marketing decisions more clearly.

UAE and the Spread of Social Media

The use of social media in UAE has really taken its toll in the last five years with consumers interacting with businesses on social networks like Facebook and twitter, in order to connect with brands and gain more insight.

Social baker, which is a social media statistics website, provided the information for the top ten Facebook “brand” pages that customers had liked and viewed.

Facebook page likes by local (UAE) fans

Facebook page likes by UAE fans

Facebook page likes by local fans

Total fans on Facebook page

Total fans on Facebook page

Total fan on Facebook page

The above data clearly shows that UAE is growing as a market where customer service can be provided on social media as well. Companies can stay constantly connected with their fans, if they have liked the page, since updates and insights appear on the homepage.

Despite that the fact that this makes communication very easy for the companies but it comes with a responsibility cost. Companies need to understand that marketing a business is separate from providing customer services. They should try and have a specific page for customer service since that will channel the queries to one focused direction instead of an overload of comments on the page, burdening the team to sift for relevant traffic.

We encourage that a well-organized and trained team is appointed for the social media customer service because it’s about serving sensitive customers who tend to react very quickly if gone unnoticed. Since social media is a public forum, no information goes hidden and hence can affect the future customers or existing customer base.

If your social media team doesn’t respond efficiently, your customers might think you don’t have time for them or rather ignored their messages, leading them to switch to a different business in search of better customer service.

Northwestern University in Qatar commissioned a survey among people in eight Arab countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE. This survey helps us better understand the growing trends of social media in the Middle East.

Social Networking in the Arab World

94 % of the users said they used Facebook, which clearly highlights its important as a strong social media tool which can be used by businesses to provide a contact point and source of insights.

According to statistics, there are over 3.6 million active Facebook users and over 300,000 twitter users in the UAE. The UAE alone generates over 2.5 million tweets a day.

Social media fans celebrated the fourth UAE Social Media day on 2nd July at the Radisson Royal Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, and the event was called “Customer Service via Social Media”.

Meghna Kothari, Director, McCollins Media opened the event, commenting on the growth of social media saying “Social media has become an integral part of a brand’s marketing strategy. It’s great to see the enthusiasm of the industry as well as clients in discussing the various aspects of channels available and the challenges they bring with it”.

Followed by Facebook, the next most used social media tool is twitter, and rightly so, because a lot of companies have registered themselves on twitter and give constant shares and updates on what is happening or important messages. Many companies in the UAE have started to use Twitter to engage with its customers, both marketing and providing customer service to their users.

The UAE Emirates Identity Authority also has an official page on twitter that they use to cater to the queries and problems of their twitter followers.

For example a customer posted a query saying: “Applicant Biometrics Required showing in my application status, what its meaning” to which the Emirates Id replied saying “Hi Jihad, please visit the nearest registration center to capture your biometrics”.

Another customer wrote “update my application but your site was down since yesterday. What should I do? Please help. I need to upload some documents there” to this the Emirates Id replied saying “Hi Dona, please try again later. If you faced the same issue again, please email: eformadmin@emiratesid.ae”

Another example of social media care in the UAE could be seen by Mashrek’s team, which is one of the UAE’s leading financial institutions with an extensive presence across the region offering an entire range of financial solutions. Mashrek manages its twitter account for customer service as well catering to the varying queries and problems coming their way.

One customer wrote saying “I’ve been on hold for over 25 minutes!? is anyone in your call center actually working today??” to this the Mashrek Customer service team quickly responded

Hi Anil, we apologize for this. Please provide your contact details and we will offer necessary assistance. Thanks.”

A customer also wrote “hi, do u hv balanace trnsfr facility on ur credit cards? To which their customer service team responded “Hi there, yes we do. Thanks”

Customer service can be used  for both solving problems as well as answering queries, and having a customer rep who can inform customers about business offerings and answer inquiries can lead to generating future sales and hence better revenue through satisfied customers.

Global Research on Social Media Care

Social media is now used by increasing number of customers as a channel to turn to when they have problems regarding a brand or service. Brands are now being led into establishing a proper customer service platform on the social media that can be used to cater quickly to the needs of the customer.

Nielson’s social media report 2012, states that 47% of social media users engage in social media care and 1 in 3 users prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the telephone. This is a clear example of how the graph of social media usage is growing and businesses need to quickly develop in order to catch the customers demand.

Research shows that in UK businesses lose £12 billion every year as a result of poor customer service. Companies end up spending a high percentage of their budget in gaining new customers that they tend to let go on the existing customer base, ignoring Gartner’s 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of your existing customers. Businesses need to focus on the delivering high quality customer service, which keep bringing the customer back for more.

As per Genesys which is a customer service solution provider, we spend $500 billion on a year on marketing while just $50 billion is spent on CRM and $ 9 billion on customer service. This shows a clear lag between the growing demands of social customer care and the efforts made by companies in trying to meet their demands, this why it should come as no surprise when 92 % of consumers have turned to different businesses at least once in the last year.

Research by Gleanster shows that how only 41% of companies actively respond to consumer complaints on social media. Companies need to understand the urgency of adapting a social media contact point or else they will lose their customers to another business as the trend has been in the previous one year.

We recommend businesses empower themselves by focusing on the experience of social media customer care and develop separate media channels, like a separate Facebook page or a customer service twitter page which they can use to direct customer service towards and deal with more efficiently.

Also the link between the customer service department and other departments needs to be connected well, so the representatives can have just the right information to provide the customers and bring about a solution to their problems instantly without having them to wait, get disappointed and simply switch service.

Challenges of using the social media for providing customer service

Facebook and twitter have surely out passed all other social media networks and can be used as a strong source of customer service in the UAE. This high usage is not only prevalent in UAE and other Middle Eastern countries but all over the world. Businesses connect to consumers over the social media allowing them to comment and raise questions about the service on a public platform, showing them the transparency and reliability they provide as an organization.

This comes along with another challenge, one of protecting the current loyal customers from disappointed angry customers who openly comment and give negative feedback about their experience with the product or service. These negative comments can be damaging to the reputation of the brand, since all users following that brand will come to know of it. Despite some loyal customers who think objectively majority of customers get influenced by what other people are saying about the brand or service.

Personalization in providing service is the key to a happy customer who feels he/she is valuable and is given time and attention. Providing personalized customer care on the social media can be a bit challenging but very rewarding. Since customer service on the social media is public and transparent companies need to make sure they don’t provide a generalized, cut and paste answer to every customer, because that will make them bring a negative impression as well. Reps must try and use the customer’s name, provide a reference to his/her specific problem and try to respond on a personalized level, so the customer feels valuable.

Hence it is necessary that the representatives are well trained to handle grumpy users and are able to deal with them, protecting their brand as well as catering to their requests. Negative comments can be a good vision for the brand to grow. There is no need to get in a panic if there are negative comments on your page; it only gives a business room to improve. Start with teaching your staff to get to the root level of the users problem, provide solutions and own up to the mistake at your end. This will show maturity and sincerity in the team members of the business and gives the image of being a caring and dependable brand.