Social customer service and the Man in the Machine: Maersk Line’s social media study (part 4)

A screenshot of @AskCiti, Citibank's Customer Service handle on Twitter
Citibank’s Customer Service handle on Twitter – @AskCiti – is a good example of how you can humanize your brand and (most likely) improve customer satisfaction by getting some of your named customer service employees plugged in.

Moving on from my previous post about the value of social media and future directions for Maersk Line, it’s now time to zoom in on one of the new areas: Social Customer Service.

There are many good reasons why we in Maersk Line (and other companies for that matter) should care about social customer service, i.e. servicing customers via various social media outlets – in a structured way, involving colleagues from customer service.

The main reasons are:

  • Call-deflection. Customers find the answer to their (repetitive) questions online and don’t need to call the company.
  • Faster response time. If you have a global setup you can easily achieve a response time of less than 1 hour.
  • It’s easier for our customers. It’s basically about following the customers so it’s easy for them – and they are spending more and more time on social media networks.
  • It can work miracles when major incidents occur. A few tweets, a handful of replies and most customers will be well informed.
  • The human touch. Allowing customers to get to know some of your employees who are allowed to bring their own personality (within the boundaries of the brand, of course).

Overall, the story is that the companies – if they get it right – can serve their customers better and in a more efficient way without losing the personal touch.

I should probably explain a bit further.

Open channels means call-deflection
The increased efficiency alluded to stems from accessibility and learning: by bringing customer interactions out into the open (for example via a dedicated customer service profile on Twitter) companies experience genuine call-deflection, because customers are able to find answers to their questions among previous responses.

In other words, the information is no longer hidden in closed 1-to-1 channels such as telephone or email. From time to time customers will even answer each others questions without the company having to reply.

Humanizing the digital interaction points
However, making the system more efficient is not the whole story. It is also about humanizing the interaction points.

Ten years ago, if you asked people what technology would do to our ways of interacting and more specifically how it would influence an area like Customer Service, most people would have predicted a more automated, AI-like landscape where ‘machines’ could do most of the work (and we could relax and stop caring).

What is interesting – and surprising – about social media is that they have shown us a different way, that is to say that we can become more efficient while at the same time continuing to interact with our customers in a personal and relevant way.

One of the best examples of how valuable it can be to respond in a human and personal way is that of mobile company O2 who calmed a twitstorm last Summer – and did so in the most awe-inspiring way.

Or are we becoming machine-like?
A question some would want to ask is whether it also works the other way around: That by getting people plugged in and digitalizing the interaction points we end up being machine-like. I think not. There are many reasons why people become machine-like, but I don’t see social media as being one of them.

Quite the contrary: Social media are effectively challenging the formal and even rigid ways some people and companies tend to interact.

The modern customer service agent? Some sceptics will claim that technologies are making us machine-like, and not the other way around. That’s an old fear as this illustration from 1924 of “The Man in the Machine” can testify to.

A two-fold objective for Maersk Line
So to summarize, Maersk Line has a two-fold objective in terms of what we want to achieve through customer service via social media: we want to optimise our procedures and increase customer satisfaction at the same time.

Having a person in the machine has proven to be imperative. Our customers want to have a relationship with us, and they want to be heard. Some of them even want to do all of this via social media.

PS: I should add that we are planning to launch a number of social costumer service solutions in Maersk Line.

Next up: Social selling and teaching where our customers learn. 

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  1. Interesting article. It’s great to read how committed Mersk are to Social Customer Service while many companies are missing the boat.

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