One of the most common FAQs I receive is about the viability of outsourcing social media customer service. “Can it be done effectively?” The simple answer is, “yes!” Some of the reasons a company seeks to outsource a business function include reducing costs, taking advantage of existing expertise, or simply because the new channel is not an existing competency within the organization. Here’s why outsourcing social media customer service is a good idea:
Offset the cost of doing it yourself
Let’s look at the first reason many businesses outsource operations: costs. You need a minimum of 6 agents and a manager to fully staff a dedicated social media customer service team for the 24-hour support.
Then there is the cost of a software suite to effectively manage the incoming volume that allows the team to respond to customers. It’s also unlikely that it will quickly integrate into your existing software tools.
Once you plan those operational costs, do not forget to add training to the menu. Remember, social media changes quickly and you will want your team to be on top of all the latest tools and resources. That can cost more than $500,000! Outsourcing social customer service can be done for far less.
Additionally, a quality provider has more experience, knows the best software suites, and has the staff already in place. The training is also a function of the provider to maintain, removing that cost from your balance sheet as well.
Everything is public now
Another concern is that social media is generally a public channel where the world can see your responses, so handing off the responsibility of responding to an outside party can feel risky. While this is certainly true, other channels are just as easily made public (and come with their own risks). Comcast has had the displeasure of demonstrating that a few times and here’s just one example from The Huffington Post. Since customers are willing to record their experiences and then share them with the world, they are no longer restrained by ‘non-public’ channels.
With an ever-connected world, offline transactions and interactions are not safe from the public view. The latest entrant into this category is United Airlines, who have had the displeasure of two separate events publicized: passengers who were forced to change clothes and another that appears to have been removed forcibly from an overbooked flight. These instances really reflect poor media strategy rather than social media customer service implementation. But it can still lead some decision makers to shy further away from the conversation of leveraging social media at all, let alone with a service provider.
A quality partner can provide guidance on how to identify trends and be an early warning service when the news cycle aims at you.
Getting the right people
Many companies dip their toes into the social media pool through marketing. New business is often more attractive, and easier to measure, than cultivating existing relationships. Who doesn’t want to get the free press from a viral post during the big game or an awards show? Let’s be honest, most companies have outsourced their social media marketing efforts to try to get these types of results.
What most agencies don’t tell you is they won’t do high-quality engagements afterward, and they certainly will try to duck and hide from engaging in customer service.
When this happens, it leaves the hiring company hanging out to dry when customers start reacting to the marketing posts with questions about service. It only makes sense to allow another group of professionals to provide that support to your customers in the channels they are asking for it. Don’t try to force the marketers to do it, and outsourcing social media customer service yourself can be a daunting task for someone who isn’t an expert in the area.
What’s stopping you?
If all of the above are true, the question is actually “Why am I not outsourcing social media customer service to an experienced provider?” The ability to outsource marketing to another company already exists. You may already be leveraging an outside company to manage your contact center through more traditional channels like phones and email.
By partnering with a service provider, you can leverage their established experience providing service to customers using social media so you don’t have to learn the hard way.
The costs are typically much easier to absorb as well. A service partner will manage the training of their own team on your products and already have the software in place so you don’t have to spend time learning new tools.
Finding a quality partner
Finally, there’s the issue of trust. As with any relationship, this has to be earned. Make sure the partner you choose to work with is vested in your success, not theirs. Concerns over making sure the process is right should be more valued than deciding on key performance indicators and compensation. There should be a large investment in time for the provider to learn about your brand and how they can preserve what you have carefully cultivated. If there is a rush to complete an onboarding checklist, the relationship is not going to last long.
As always, we are available to answer your questions about outsourcing social media customer service and marketing operations. Your success and growth is our primary goal as your partner. Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get the full scoop on social media news you can use.