Preparing Brands for Social Customer Service

Thu 03 Mar 2016

From a transactional to a relationship economy, why social customer service is an essential element of every business

According to research carried out by the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) in July 2015, 12% of those on social media are prepared to raise a complaint to a brand via social media if their issue has not been addressed by other methods. As 59% (38 million) of UK adults have at least one active social media account, we are looking at an audience of at least 4.5 million potential complainants. That’s a lot of people. And the number is set to increase in the next few years.

Adam Green, Chief Risk Officer for Equiniti recently said:

We need to be prepared for an increase in the speed of customer complaints, changes in the way customers complain and for complaints to become more visible through social media.

But social is not just about the online whinge. ICS’ research also found that many customers are “prepared to engage with brands in a supportive manner.” Many like to ‘like’ and ‘follow’. So UK businesses need to be visible on their customers’ online channels in order to create brand engagement. And, in fact, many already are; with 94% of UK big businesses having social media presence on at least three social platforms. 

Empowering brands and individuals alike

Although it feels like the customer has been ultimately empowered by social, this two-way communication channel provides great opportunity for a brand. But only if the business is able to manage the volume and sentiment of the social activity that buzzes around them online. Jo Causon, CEO of the Institute of Customer Service, commented on this potential: 

We have reached a point where social media is not just a necessary component of a credible customer service strategy but one which offers powerful insights that drive better innovation, co-creation and collaboration. To make this a reality, social media needs to be a central part of a coherent, sustained and long-term focus on customer service strategy, something that many organisations are yet to do.

There is great opportunity to gain compelling insights from social media analytics, which should directly feed in to research and development. In turn, businesses can fix issues sooner through immediate feedback. This feedback loop is faster than ever before and the winners will be those businesses who are most nimble and who can make real change quickly.

Towards a relationship economy

Many businesses are still building their social strategy. These often include elements of both marketing and customer service. Regarding the latter, a whole new type of customer service has evolved; social customer service. Those that manage social customer service need to have the right skills to manage posts which are often operational/ customer services enquiries. In this respect, it makes sense for such social media management to be part of the bigger customer services piece.

Yet, those managing social media for an organisation have to deeply understand the brand and be able to speak confidently on its behalf. From a theoretical perspective, Causon comments: 


The shift from a transactional economy to a relationship economy has been influenced and is most visible through new channels such as social media.

It is important for those social media accounts managers to understand the nature of this relationship economy, and it is also fundamental that the right tools are used.

Social tools are key

To deal with the sometimes fleeting brand-consumer relationships, sophisticated online tools are needed. These are essential in managing high volumes of posts which can vary greatly in their degrees of sentiment. Equiniti offer a social customer service tool that works to simplify the view of all the social media activity around a business.

As high volumes flow in, it is often possible for posts and messages to be missed. Equiniti’s social customer service tool gives companies the chance to manage, analyse and, as a result, develop strong social customer service strategies. This provides a business with all they need to manage the potential thousands of brand-consumer social relationships they may gain a year. It’s time to develop these relationships and it’s time to be social, now.

Equiniti Charter’s Social Customer Service tool is used by many UK companies. To learn more, watch our film below.