How to manage social customer care during viral spikes

Dave Evans

Is your business prepared to handle a crisis? If yours is like most big brands, the answer is probably “yes.” Most enterprise-level businesses have a social customer care plan in place for when catastrophe strikes, and have reviewed the procedure with the necessary teams. That’s simply a best practice. But even the most prepared businesses are forced to reconcile the fact that when events happen, and whether it’s a global crisis like COVID-19 or an errant statement made by a CEO, a rehearsed plan will only get you so far.

In addition to crisis management planning, savvy digital customer engagement teams also prepare for the “what ifs” of viral volume spikes that result from piling-on, an issue that seems to be a near-daily occurrence somewhere on the social web. Simply put, “piling on” and the viral spikes that result from it is a phenomenon accelerated by the social web, where any external crisis, personal offense, or social injustice can quickly ramp into a full-blown overrun of your engagement team. As a parallel, consider one of the hacker’s favorite tactics: the Denial of Service attack, in which a flood of messages directed at your website results in your site being unavailable.

In this post, we’re going to explore what happens when businesses experience a surge in customer service requests (regardless of the impetus), the negative effects of not handling a crisis efficiently, and the infrastructure needed to manage it well.

What happens when viral spikes strike your customer care team

When piling-on occurs on social media, customers with simple questions unrelated to the crisis event are suddenly unable to reach you, resulting in a degraded customer experience. This threatens the customer care standards and the high-quality customer experience you and your team have carefully put in place.

When a surge in customer service requests on social media happens, your response time can be among the first casualties: where you may be running at 15 minute response times normally, suddenly, your customers are waiting an hour. In a recent survey, we found that 70% of customers expect a resound within minutes on chat.

To be sure, there is an exception to negative perceptions around longer wait times when not operating in a traditional real-time chat scenario: businesses using asynchronous chat are better prepared to get back to customers within a reasonable time frame. These instances, however, have to be set up properly; chat sessions can’t just time out and end if the customer walks away from their computer.

As customers increasingly adopt digital messaging over public social media platforms, the expectation for near-real-time engagement and reduced time waiting for a response grows.

Faster responses = happier customers

But there’s another benefit: in addition to maintaining your high levels of service — always a great practice — being prompt measurably increases the likelihood of converting a negative or neutral opening post from a customer into a positive conversation. This means that the faster you can respond, the more likely your customers are to be delighted — or at least pleased — with the final issue resolution. Being able to manage regular customer issues promptly in the face of volume spikes is therefore not only an operational best practice, but for agents and customers alike, it’s also the path to happiness.

How to maintain response times during customer care surges

No matter how thorough your crisis management plan is, customer care and engagement teams won’t be able to sustain surges in requests, questions, and complaints if they don’t have the proper technology in place.

At Khoros, we build digital customer engagement platforms that scale. We provide tools that let you spot the tsunami while it’s still offshore, tools that let you “go back in time” and re-classify “piling on” posts to protect your front-line team from being overrun. Everything we do is designed to keep you online and within SLA, ensuring that you are all-ways connected.

To learn more, watch our recorded webinar Managing Customer Care During Viral Spikes, where we take a deep dive into the data science and practical take-aways for managing a high-performance team through a viral spike. In forty minutes, you’ll gain not only an understanding of what causes these events and how to spot them but also how to prepare your team to manage through them. So check out the recorded webinar. Because hope is not a strategy.

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