The important differences between community managers and customer service roles and why this matters

In social media, community managers and customer service people are very different, not in just what they do, but who they are and how they interact, and their value in informing the organisation to do better business.

McDonald’s Drive Thru vs. The Grove: Our analogy.

While there is an occasion for both types of the kinds of service and food offered by convenience takeaways and fine dining, they both have very different purposes in our lives. And the same is true for why a customer connects with a brand in social media.

1. Customer Service = Macca’s drive thru

The success of any drive through is measured on getting as many people as possible through and fed as quickly and as efficiently as possible, with a no surprises, consistent experience. The customers want the food they expect and they want it now!

It’s a numbers game.

This is the customer service team. Just like a call centre, they are measured by the EFFICIENCY: lots of people looked after as quickly as possible. It’s all about prompt satisfaction. People want an answer to a very specific question, and they want it as quickly as possible.

This is answers to questions around opening hours, shipping, product availability, store locations.

Now, thanks to AI bots in Facebook, for example, this can be handled really cheaply by setting up automatic replies to many common questions. Or even anticipating questions by providing answers up front to the most common questions that are asked.

Reporting on this kind of service will provide data – information and facts – around how many people asked one particular question, and how quickly the team answered. Other than showing how efficient the team (or bot) is in answering customer service questions, there is not much more in the way of insights that can be fed back into the business to make the business better.

2. Community Management = The Grove

The success of a fine dining restaurant is measured in repeat customers paying top dollar, great reviews, and bookings months in advance. Everything that comprises the ultimate experience for diners is important for this to happen #holdthefoam

Your community manager – using our restaurant analogy – is the entire fine dining experience. They are your maître d’, host, serving staff, sommelier, chef and venue rolled into one. They provide the EXPERIENCE: which is full of excitement, surprise and promise. The best experience leaves the customer – or as it is in social media the community – with the memory of feeling very, very special.

Every moment of contact and connection pivots on the community manager relating in an attentive, above and beyond, exceptional way so the customer feels valued and important.
Much like the fine dining restaurant experience, the ability of the CM to up-sell in the exchange will make the business side of the business excel.

Plus, the insights provided by your CM are highly valuable to the business. In fact, they can be transformative.

A hard-learned expensive lesson about insights…..
Please learn from our experiences 🙂 #truestory…

We know insights are super important so my team created a super slick, efficient and beautiful software so we could report to our clients everything that was happening in social. It was amazing!!

It produced incredible reports with pretty much every piece of information that we could pull!

But… no one read them!

Why? Because our clients are busy and charts that say things like the CM team answered 40% more questions last week and were 20% faster at getting to customers is meaningless in terms of what the business can actually act on.

Discovering that people want to declutter their lives with Marie Kondo precision and need a LOT of new, beautiful storage solutions, however, now THAT’s business insights a brand can use. And that’s exactly what my Mitre 10 CM team fed back into the Mitre 10 business, which then changed the way it sold storage (and increased sales because of it!).

So we’ve dumped the pretty charts and now our CMs provide a top line report of the sentiment, conversations and key trends that occurred in a week back to brands, which they use to inform marketing and the business.

What we look for in an epic Community Manager

While people (still) hold onto the idea that they can just get a student / intern / nephew to jump in and “do” the social media, when it comes to your community manager – your maître d’- you want the very best.

Community managers represent the beginning of your brand-to-customer experience, and may even (often!) be the first (and last) time someone contacts your organisation.

A dissatisfied customer who experiences a poor exchange with your community manager (your temp wait staff who doesn’t know the menu…) will not only be very disappointed, but they will probably tell a lot of people about their poor experience. While there is no Trip Advisor for social media, there is social media to tell everyone about an unfair or bad experience in social media. Trip Advisor not needed!

The team you hire therefore is critical – ultimately – to your business bottom line. A great community manager not only masters the up-sell, but they turn negatives into a positives and can turn trolls and haters into your brand’s very best online (and offline) advocates and fans. And that can be a game changer!

So, we are meticulous on how we hire my CM team and this is what we look for.

They must:

  • Like people
  • Have empathy
  • Be patient (and kind)
  • Be problem-solvers
  • Be resilient
  • Have a HUGE sense of humour (which goes hand in hand with an amazing intellect!)

It also helps if they value a role that has a degree of flexibility if your brand wants to be “on” from 9am to 9pm, which is what I highly recommend brands to be – certainly big retail and telecomm brands.

What you can do as a brand to support your CM team

Your community managers are vital to the success of your brand in this world where people are selecting their mode of communications with a brand, which is increasingly through social media (not the phone, sorry!).

1. Be valued

So your CM needs to be a highly valued member of your team. Their insights and opinion need to feed into product development, marketing, sales and much more. They are the litmus to what’s actually happening on the virtual shop floor.

They know intimately what people want, who are the brand champions, what competitions and campaigns will work and which ones will flop.

2. Have knowledge

They need to know (almost) everything about your organisation. Know it’s mission, vision, purpose, tone of voice, brand values, persona…. everything! They need to be briefed on issues and crises – ideally sitting at the table!

They are your brand’s social voice.

Our team IS the best of the best!

We can confidently say that our community managers are the very best of the best. I know, because we see how they have worked. This team is, we believe, the best in New Zealand, and exemplars of the industry worldwide. They are fiercely intelligent, meticulous, persistent, highly organised, agile and, above all, absolutely love the brands they work for and communities they have become part of.

We couldn’t be more proud of the people they are and the work they do for their brands and Socialites.