Nobody would question the benefits of having customer service agents answering phone lines, or front line employees responding to comments, questions or complaints from customers. In the hospitality world, like in most industries, it’s just common business sense. The challenge lies perhaps in finding the right balance of employees handling customer queries, ensuring not to over-staff or under-staff depending on seasonality, peaks, special occasions or during a crisis, for example.
Yet, when it comes to social media, it seems we’re never quite sure to what extent we should staff up. After all, many brands still struggle simply to identify where social media resides: is it in Marketing? PR? Human Resources? IT? Customer Service? Assuming you know where it lies within your company – ideally, social media should be handled through a hub & spoke model, whereby all departments are represented in a task team, as per the model developed by the Altimeter Group – recent data shows it actually pays to answer clients who ask questions via your Twitter accounts.
According to this May 2011 research by InboxQ, roughly 6 in 10 Twitter users said they wanted businesses to answer them on the microblogging platform. Even more interestingly, almost 60% said they were more likely to follow a brand that answered them, and 64% said they were more likely to make a purchase from that brand.
These findings echo what also came out of the most recent ShareThis Study, June 2011, that showed how Facebook fans spend more, more frequently, with brands they like than regular customers that do not follow that brand. So while brands do not question staffing up adequately to answer customer service issues, there is still resistance to staffing up social media teams in order to properly address incoming comments, questions and complaints.
A great example came from Shashank Nigam, CEO of Simpliflying, who was presenting last week at Eye for Travel’s Online Marketing Strategies for Travel, in Miami. He unveiled a new infographic showing how airlines allocate resources to manage social media. He found that while 92% of tweets was content related to customer service issues, i.e. delays, questions, comments, feedback, surprisingly only 13% of social media teams are made up of customer service representatives, signalling a great divide!
There are clear benefits to answering customer queries made via social platforms, but first and foremost it affects positively top line through increased purchasing and adding revenues to brands engaging via these networks. We now need to work on the specifics of social media ROI to continue making the business case within our own companies…