FRESH PERSPECTIVE

Social Media Customer Care Best When Both Humans and Bots Are at Play

Recent social media platform updates, such as Messenger and chatbots, present both opportunities and threats to a brand's social care strategy. While enabling AI-driven chatbots can be cost-effective, and provide 24/7 management of high-volume customer inquiries, they can also be damaging to the brand — from creating poor, artificial customer experiences to harming your brand

01/28/2019

Earlier this year, I placed an online order for some clothes. Upon clicking “submit order,” I immediately received a Private Message from the retailer’s Facebook account. “Congratulations! Your new styles are on the way!” After I got over the “How’d they do that?” question in my head, I realized how satisfying it was to have instant confirmation on social media of my purchase.

While social care remains a top strategy for brands, the best balance of bots and live agents is still uncertain. Recent social media platform updates, such as Messenger and chatbots, present both opportunities and threats to a brand’s social care strategy. While enabling AI-driven chatbots can be cost-effective, and provide 24/7 management of high-volume customer inquiries, they can also be damaging to the brand — from creating poor, artificial customer experiences to harming your brand reputation and even creating cyber security problems. That’s why a strategy that implements both bots and human interactions is the best practice for social care.

Here are five considerations for a mindfully sound social care strategy:

People are Using Social Media more and more for Customer Care

It’s no secret social media is a staple in almost every company’s marketing strategy. What was less expected was the rate at which consumers would use social media for communicating with brands and requesting customer service. According to Cooler Insights, 90 percent of social media users have used a social network to communicate with a brand. More importantly to brands, 63 percent of those users expect companies to offer customer service on social channels.

And, while those statistics speak highly of social media customer care volume and expectations, studies have also found that people prefer social media for customer service, over email, web-based live chat and phone. This is attributed to the convenience and often high-visibility of the concern.

Brands still put marketing ahead of care on social media

While the rise and demand of social media customer care cannot be ignored, brands are still putting more focus into marketing instead of care when it comes to their social media strategy. In fact, on average, brands send 23 promotional messages to every one response to a customer.

Statistics around the absence of care are alarming. It’s reported that one-third of social complaints are ignored, and while 42 percent of social media users say they expect a response within an hour, the average response time remains at about five hours. Companies still handle off-hours coverage of social media channels and struggle to manage the volume of inbound messages via social channels. Enter bots.

Bots are best at providing quick responses to frequently asked questions

A bot, or a chatbot, is a computer program that generates responses based on some input, usually keywords. Bots are best utilized for standard and generic 24/7 responses to inbound messages and provide the best care for simple and frequently asked inquiries. While the heavy lifting of implementing a bot lies at the front-end of the project, when programmed comprehensively, bots can relieve companies of continuous and high-volume care requests.  

Bots lack the key social care elements that humans are best at

Bots, however, come with risks. Most notably, bots can be tempting to hackers. Bots are also limited to their initial human programming and, most importantly, lack the key social care elements that humans are best at: empathy and emotional intelligence. Opposite of humans, bots do not have the ability to know what to say and when. Oftentimes, bots are unable to detect slang or sarcasm, and therefore misjudge a conversation’s sentiment. A bot-only strategy for social care runs the risk of dehumanizing the brand by completely removing themselves from personally connecting with customers. Despite being displaced through a digital channel, customer service should still be an interpersonal experience.

Human social customer care agents have their risks, too

While bots can handle numerous inquiries at any hour of the day, humans are limited in their ability to process multiple inquiries at once, and in a timely manner. Further, in many industries, humans cannot manage the volume of inbound messages a single brand receives in one day. Beyond physical capabilities, employing a team of 24/7 social customer care agents is expensive, and maintaining the tools, processing and ongoing training is overwhelming for a brand of any size, across any industry.

The best balance

Today, brands manage social customer care in a number of ways. They either have a designated social media team or delegate social care to call center agents. However, shifts in this strategy are expected, as 80 percent of brands plan to use bots by 2020. When it comes to social customer care, a mix of both humans and bots is the best balance.

A chatbot and a real customer service agent saved the day for me.  Both served a unique purpose at the right time of my experience.

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