Customer service is changing - "social media is just the tip of the iceberg"

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed November 10, 2015
Customer service is changing - but what is driving the change? Conversocial's Joshua March has some strong opinions on what works - and what doesn't.

Last time around, I debated the future of social customer service with Conversocial CEO Joshua March. But March had more to say - he surprised me with his views on social issue resolution. We also dug into the future of customer service. March explained why social media is an inadequate term for the profound shifts in mobile behavior that are underway.

Companies should resolve service issues on the same social channel

I've always felt that social is not the ideal channel for resolving (most) service issues, which are hard to escalate and/or resolve in short bursts. But during our on-site podcast, Can social customer service ease our UX pain?, March challenged my view. His team has structured their entire approach on same-channel-resolution:

It's a terrible customer experience to have to shift channel, especially if it ends up losing data or losing the same agent you were speaking to. Almost everyone today is on a smart phone. A lot of these service interactions are being initiated from a smart phone. Email sucks, in general. Live chat doesn't really work.

Social is extremely efficient - it's extremely easy for the consumer and the agent. A lot of people don't want to have to shift to a phone call and sit on hold, or sit on the phone for a long time. If you've got engagement on social, even if you need to move to private message, you can do that really easily.

March also noted that Twitter's shift to extended direct messages have made Twitter-specific issue resolution much easier than in the past. That makes sense  - I haven't used Twitter for service issues since they expanded the DM limit. The prior limitations on message length, and the problems with asymmetrical follow ("Can you follow me so I can send you a message") made Twitter a nightmare for complex issue resolution.

March pointed to Facebook's Messenger Platform for business as another improvement:

It's not only private - Facebook is also building presence management, live chat functionality. You can move something to private and do anything you could do over any of those other channels.

He isn't accepting data privacy as an excuse either:

We have major Fortune 500 clients who have authorized their agents to take private information, such as account info, addresses and phone numbers over DMs. There's really no excuse not to deliver full resolution on social.

Trends in customer service - what's next?

March doesn't see service as a "social media trend." He believes that a profound shift from desktop to mobile is driving everything, including different communication styles:

For us, social media is just the tip of the iceberg. We see a big trend in how people communicate - moving away from desktop and onto smart phones. You see digital communication moving away from channels like email and live chat, into your social media, mobile messaging, and potentially SMS. We also see a trend through generations of people who want to move away from voice, and more into text that is more efficient - especially in the moment and on the go.

He also sees a coming decline in the use of email and live chat. But there are limitations in public social channels as well, as shown by Twitter's DM and Facebook's business messenger announcements:

There are natural limits to something like Facebook and Twitter in terms of the public nature of those platforms. There are some things customers just don't want to share publicly. There's always going to be a slight hesitancy on a company's behalf to really promote you to share complaints publicly. Twitter DM and Facebook Messenger has all the real-time, live chat functionality you see from the traditional live chat vendors, but it's built for mobile. It's multi-platform, so it can go seamlessly from desktop to mobile.

But to make this work, don't you need integration into CRM to validate identity and avoid redundancy? Otherwise, you're just typing the same data strings as your customer blood temperature rises - and that's pretty clunky. March responded:

It's not clunky if it has a persistent identity. As soon as a customer messages, you always know who you are. There's no repeating of information. That kind of thing is actually super important for mobile. People can't have the hassle of repeating and writing long strings. Having that persistent identity and being able to match that into your CRM system is really key.

And that's the challenge that Conversocial faces going forward: building a viable platform for a different kind of service - one where you get your problem solved on the same channel you vented on. Or, if you have to move channels, the data of past interaction must move with you - without mobile log-in hell.

Based on recent cruddy experiences with the likes of Amazon Kindle, Clear (airline security), Verizon and so on, there is plenty of hard climbing ahead for companies to deliver on this ease-of-resolution March is (rightly) pursuing. And that's where we'll leave his story for now:

We see ourselves as building the complete enterprise customer service platform for this new generation of communication channels. It's a rapidly moving market - nobody is standing still. New platforms are coming out. A lot of them kind of combine public and private messages in different ways, one-to-one and one-to-many. In the end, their platform is under the control by the customer, not the company.

Podcast: Can social service ease our CX pain?

You can also download the mp3 file of the Conversocial podcast here. This is the shorter version of the podcast - the short AND extended version of this podcast are available on my Busting the Omnichannel iTunes feed.

Image credit: Service business concept. Businessman with computer says one mom © studiostoks - Quick photo of Joshua March at Conversocial - Jon Reed.

Disclosure: Diginomica has no financial ties to Conversocial; I reached out to Joshua while in New York City as I find his story interesting.

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