Oracle CX

Social Customer Service

Social Customer Service -
The 5 Golden Rules

Matt Bateson, Customer Experience Strategy Director at Oracle. Follow me at @Mattb8son


Ok so social networks are not new, we all know this. But social networking for customer service has fast become the hottest priority for Customer Service leaders over the recent years. There are some that do it very well, some that have just started on the journey, and many that are still in the starting blocks.

Why Bother?

You may not have the social bug, you may not even have a twitter account, and you may be asking yourself what’s the point? You’ve been delivering great service through your existing channels for years and your KPI’s are improving, so why risk all of that for social?

The single, most important answer is because that’s where your customers are. Think about it, there are 2 billion smartphones in use today, predicted to grow to 5 billion in the next 4 years. People currently spend on average 1.7 hours on social channels every day, increasing steadily year on year. Can you afford to miss this opportunity to engage your customers and offer them a more convenient, faster and cheaper communication channel? Like it or not, we may not have a choice. If you can’t engage with them via social, then there’s a strong chance that your competitors will.

Avoid the False Start

Ok so you’ve decided Social is on the roadmap for your customer service strategy, and you’re getting excited about this new way of engaging customers… that’s great, so where do you start? Set up a twitter account and give it to a team in your organisation to manage it? Or better still, perhaps you procure some social management technology that will allow you to engage more effectively across multiple social sites?

Well if that’s the approach you want to take then that’s ok, but be prepared to get called back to the start line when things don’t quite turn out as expected. As I’m sure you know, Social is not like any other channel. It’s public. Whilst your customer service teams will be engaging with customers on a one to one basis over social, the interactions will be in public with an audience of millions.

Now if that’s not daunting enough, you also need to remember that the content cannot be deleted. Once said, it cannot be unsaid. But it can be shared and viewed by an unlimited number of people! Long story short – you don’t want to get this wrong!

Be a Social Customer Service Winner - The 5 Golden Rules

Be a Social Customer Service Winner - The 5 Golden Rules The good news is that getting social right isn’t as difficult as you might think. You probably already have the resources you need in your organisation to make this work, but before you start there are something to consider – here are my five golden rules to kick start your Social journey by avoiding the common pitfalls. Don’t be too concerned about getting it all right from day 1, these things can be tuned over time.

Be Proactive & Don’t wait for complaints

The majority of customer service interactions are initiated by the customer e.g. they will visit your website and look for support, they may then contact you – via phone, email, chat etc. In this ‘reactive’ communications model, social is typically only used by customers when things go wrong and they can’t get what they need from your existing channels. Customers will play this ‘social power card’ to get what they want – knowing it’s a public channel and that you’ll want to minimise negative exposure. So don’t wait for customers to engage you - be proactive, your customers are active in social networks so listen to what they are saying and engage at the right moment. This could be as simple as capturing a new customer tweet saying “I hope my order turns up tomorrow”, and responding with the estimated arrival time. In this case you have saved a potential phone contact and given them a great experience. This is valuable for the both customer and organisation.

Express Yourself

It never fails to amaze me how much personality comes over in just 140 characters. It’s not just about what is said, but also how it is said. This isn’t the case with email for example, which is used in a more formal way. This presents the opportunity to express yourself! Allow your service team to project their characters in line with your organisations brand and values. Customers expect you to be less formal over social channels, so use this to your advantage and bring out your service personality to make the social experience more memorable and enjoyable.

Allow Freedom within Boundaries

It easy to see how powerful social can be as a tool for engaging with customers, but with this power comes risk. You can do a lot of damage to your organisations reputation if you don’t control how your service teams use social channels.

To reduce the risk of your social team landing your organisation in the middle of a PR disaster, you should set the boundaries for employees to work within. This is not about being prescriptive about what your employee’s can and can’t say, nor should they scare your employees into never making a mistake. Expect people to get things wrong, but limit the damage they can do by setting the boundaries appropriately.

Boundaries that prohibit the use of expletives and sexual references will go without saying, but setting the boundaries correctly require you to look further and think about how you want your customers to perceive you for example what conversations should you engage in and which should you ignore? How you will protect your customer’s privacy? What information do you not post publicly to protect customer privacy? When should the conversation be moved to a more private channel?

Be Consistent & Measure

Social, just like any other communication channel in your service environment, requires effective management in order to deliver a consistent level of service. Customers expect fair treatment, and thanks for features like Facebooks ‘saved replies’, they can see exactly how quickly you are responding to customers. We should look at consistency in two specific ways in order to address this:

  • In Channel Treatment – The service you provide to customers in the social channel must be consistent. Your customers can see all of the interactions that you have over social channels, so treating them consistently will remove any risk of feeling unfairly treated.
  • Cross Channel Treatment – Social is typically not the first channel that the customer will use during a single interaction, instead it is typically the 3rd or 4th channel. Therefore when you engage with a customer over a social channel, your social agents should be aware of the interaction history of that customer enabling a personalised and context rich communication.

Promote to drive steady growth

Whilst the hype around social may lead you to believe that there is a tidal wave of tweets, posts and private messages waiting for your service team when you open your social doors, for the majority, this just isn’t true. Depending on your customer groups, you may even need to promote your social presence to drive customers to adopt this channel.

This shouldn’t be a ‘big bang’ launch, the term “learn to walk before you run” is particularly true here. Gradual uptake of social is critical to allow your social service team to build up knowledge, skills and experience over time. Gradual growth will give you the ability to monitor how this channel is being used by your customers, and analyse the impact it has on your other communication channels.

You may want to start by adding your social service address to your website, or proactively reaching out to a targeted segment of customers. In summary, it’s important that the promotion of your social service channel drives a gradual growth rate so you can learn how your customers use this channel and refine your social strategy over time.

What Next?

If you’re keen to move forward with your social service plans, or perhaps you’re already providing a level of social service today but you want to improve it, you can pull together your social strategy very quickly. Social presents a prime opportunity to collaborate with your colleagues in marketing, as well as engaging the digital natives in your organisation.

Use the 5 rules as a starting point for building your strategy. And of course if you want to partner with a Social Customer Experience leader, Oracle are here to help!


Consumer psychology expert Philip Graves, explains the three key customer behaviours critical to understand for great customer service delivery. Watch his video here.