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Clive Andrews

Quick thinking in customer service – the community behaviour matrix

The use of social platforms as a way of providing customer service isn’t always easy. An effective customer service team uses community management skills to juggle a stream of online interaction – ensuring they make best use of time and resources to prioritise the right conversations in a busy online environment. Which issues are most important? Where should we spend our time? Who needs our help the most?

So, to make this task a little less overwhelming, we’ve developed a customer behaviour matrix to help make sense of it all.

To see a larger version of these slides, download them or view them via Slideshare.

Here’s the customer behaviour matrix itself:

What do you think? Is there anything you’d change or do differently? Do you use other mechanisms to manage online customer service?

For more techniques and insight, we offer a range of courses through our NixonMcInnes Academy including one for social customer service specialists.



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  1. Thanks for sharing this post.. I would suggest that there is a starting point before your grid.. tweets aimed at the business ie they start @twitterusername and those where the twitter user name is mentioned in a tweet…

    I would suggest that all tweets aimed at a business and that start @twitterusername should be replied to.. Then after these tweets, come the rest with a sort of grid idea that you have outlined..

    I would also add that aggression and foul language may be encountered. There are ways to handle this, a good example is o2 from a week or so ago, that really handled foul abuse incredibly well..


    Mark Shaw
    CEO EngagementIndex

    Posted 30th July 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  2. Hi Mark.

    Thanks very much for reading and for commenting.

    Though I intended this matrix to apply across all platforms, including (but not exclusively) Twitter, I do share your view that it’s important to recognise the difference between @replies / @mentions at the start of tweets, and those occurring part-way through.

    But not all tweeters/customers understand this point of Twitter protocol, so I think this distinction should be interpreted flexibly. Some people may use a @name part-way into a tweet that clearly demands or needs a response, while others may begin with a @name, though their tweet is merely a passing observation. Not everyone uses Twitter in the same way, and tweets need to be regarded in context.

    However, despite all this, there’s another reason I’m not in complete agreement with your suggestion that all directly @named tweets should always be responded to before sorting as above.

    Consider conversations that fall into the area I’ve labelled above as ‘Aggression’ – those that are negative and not constructive. If, after initially responding helpfully (as suggested) to an aggressive remark, a customer remains sweary, unconstructive and repetitive, then there are times when I’d argue it can be OK to walk away from an abusive conversation rather than continuing ad infinitum. This can be particularly important when there are limited resources and other quieter more constructive people (in the area of ‘Criticism’, maybe) are waiting to be answered. If worthwhile information is being exchanged and the conversation is constructive, then the community manager has succesfully moved the conversation from ‘Aggression’ to ‘Criticism’. Good move.

    Similarly, in the area of ‘Chatter’ (positive, yet not constructive) – there are busy customer service staff who are bravely dealing with a barrage of enquiries and issues while a few friendly souls decide they’d love to discuss last night’s episode of Coronation Street or their best tips for London pubs (I’ve seen this!). This is a difficult call to make, as positive sentiment should never be squandered when there’s time to spare, but I do believe it’s acceptable to prioritise urgent relevant enquiries over those just looking for a chat. Each organisation must decide how and where to draw this line. I do lots of work in the the area of public transport, and when journeys are disrupted, customer service staff need to prioritise the conversations that make a difference to getting people home on time over those that don’t. It can be a tough decision, but sometimes a necessary one.

    And the O2 thing? Yes – those responses were great (and highly amusing) but I’d suggest they only really worked as examples of good community management when the humanity and humour of an O2 response turned a previously aggressive conversation into one of constructive criticism. In other cases, O2′s tweets provided some lighthearted (and brave!) PR rather than real examples of strong community management.

    Sorry for the long reply, Mark, but you gave me an opportunity to express a line of thinking I didn’t make space for in my original post. For this, I’m very grateful!


    Posted 31st July 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  3. Thanks Clive for a detailed reply.. in response to your points.. At engagementInedex we do not measure ongoing chats / responses.. Only the initial tweet to a business and then the subsequent reply. This avoids the never ending tweet reply issue….

    Also we look at clustered tweets.. so when a customer tweets, then tweets again, then again all in the space of a few minutes.. Again we do not expect of all those tweets in that burst of tweets to be replied to… but would expect one of them to be responded to….

    I agree that not everyone uses Twitter in the same way, some people do merely mention the twitter username or just the business name in a tweet. At engagementIndex we wanted the score to be as transparent and objective as we could. So for that reason we only measure when the tweet starts with their twitter username, then there can be no disputing that they should have replied.


    Mark Shaw
    CEO EngagementIndex

    Posted 9th August 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink
  4. tim rabjohns

    Hi Clive,
    well done for evolving this further – customer behaviour matrix makes it sound a lot more official! Yes – I think having a simple chart to help categorise what types of responses people are making is really helpful to shape what kind of reply to make. I can’t help wondering, now that you’ve identified the “what”, if you shouldn’t also be identifying the “why”? – if you can identify what motivates these people to post – eg feeling connected, feeling powerful or whatever, then it becomes easier to modify their behaviour by responding with appropriate customer service messages and working out how to turn the “critics” the “Chatters” and even possibly the “agressives” into advocates – and not just be working out where to spend the customer service time in terms of fire fighting. Hope this makes any sense!
    thanks – tim

    Posted 9th August 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
  5. yo Clive

    Nice matrix. Two thoughts…

    1) A bit like Mark’s comments above I think it might be helpful to add a ‘Direction’ field which would account for whether comments/tweets/conversations were directly aimed at a business. Even thinking of platforms beyond Twitter, whether someone is directing a conversation at a brand would shape how/when you decide to respond.

    2) Is ‘Aggression’ a bit too full on term here? It also has implications for directionality. Can you say someone is being aggressive if they’re just tweeting rudely about a brand to no-one in particular? I prefer the idea of ‘venting’ people letting off steam – again to a brand or to no-one in particular. Aggression has a place in the response/engagement matrix – but is it here???

    Posted 25th August 2012 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  6. Hi Tim, Simon.

    Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts. I was hoping this would provoke some additional thoughts, so I’m glad you’ve chipped in.

    Tim – I agree that discovering people’s motivations is really important in fully understanding the way people behave online. There is indeed the potential for motivation to inform the ability for movement of a conversation from one point on the grid to another. I like the MotiveQuest info you showed me previously. My challenge is to try and keep my matrix simple – I want it to be a quick guide for people new to community management, pushed for time and trying to make best use of their resources. Can I add more layers of wisdom without crowding out the simplicity?

    Simon (1) – I think you have a point about direction. While I disagree with the popular view that this can always be simply categorised through the position of an @ in a tweet, it does change the nature of the response.

    Simon (2) – I’m glad you’ve mentioned ‘Aggression’. I’ve never been completely happy with it, so I’d love to find a better label. ‘Venting’ could be a useful idea, but could I be venting constructively, thereby overlapping with ‘Criticism’? I’ll keep thumbing through the thesaurus on this one…

    Posted 29th August 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink
  7. hi again

    Re. Aggression/venting/constructive criticism – yes, I think you’re right. But then, that’s the problem trying to deal with complexity using a 4×4 matrix ;-)

    Posted 29th August 2012 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

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  1. [...] is re-post of an old post I contributed to the NixonMcInnes blog during my time there. It describes a tool I developed to help community managers to manage diverse [...]