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Governments need to embrace social media as a customer service platform.

Social media is a two-way communication platform. For large corporations and the government, Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media are fast becoming customer service platforms.

At present, most governments use social media mostly as a push marketing platform. Very few accounts participate in meaningful engagement with their constituents. There are several reasons for this:

  • Lack of resources

  • Fear of community response

  • Lack of understanding around how this can be of value

  • Lack of understanding of how the platforms work.

This needs to change, and meaningful engagement needs to be embraced as the user experience of the Internet has become so focused on social platforms. Society is shifting, and constituents increasingly expect to be able to ask questions of authorities via social media, and to receive timely and honest answers. Messenger apps are the fastest growing area within social media, and rather than searching for an answer on a website, users prefer to ask their questions via social media and messaging apps. They expect to receive a relevant and appropriate response, as this has become the norm for how many companies use social media.

The social media platforms themselves are recognising this shift in consumer expectations. Facebook has publicly declared that they are giving greater exposure to posts that include ‘meaningful interactions’: that is, conversations between people on a page post. Facebook offers itself as a customer service platform, and that’s increasingly how the site is being used.

Using a well-planned content strategy, Service NSW can make posts about topics they want the community to be aware of. Through-providing, prompt responses mean that the page’s users learn that this is an effective tool to gain quick and easy answers to general questions. It’s worth providing answers publicly as the one response may help many who have the same concern or query.

If Centrelink can do it, anyone can.

The Federal Government has established a customer service centre for Centrelink services via Facebook. Although these pages are resource intensive (as there is the need for service centres to answer queries), they are also likely to remove resourcing pressures from call centres and face-to-face centres, which are often extremely busy.

Of course, organisations also need to exercise caution, as open communication allows the public to potentially make inappropriate comments on your page. Facebook will allow you to create a blacklist of terms within the platform which will block those identified words, and all major platforms allow you to block users. Allocating page moderators is usually accepted practice for page management.

Probably the biggest benefit of resourcing a social customer service centre is the creation of an attentive and engaged audience towards whom you can direct key messages when you need them to be heard. Communicating during national crises like the recent bushfires benefits from platforms like these, as government institutions can spread community messages quickly.

The NT Government should prepare itself for using social media as a customer platform in the near future. Much like the NSW Government, the Queensland Government has a publicly available approach to social media where the key goal is to ‘make it more convenient for customers to engage with the Queensland Government and access information, services and campaigns’.

There are already several areas in NTG where a social customer service centre could be considered, including:

  • Territory Families’ Pensioner Concession Scheme, which is supported by a team of customer support staff who could use social platforms to answer questions.

  • Territory Business Centre and their current advisors, which could look to support business enquiries via their Facebook page.

  • It would have been an innovative approach to use social media to respond to cash rebate questions after Cyclone Marcus.

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