Can I Help You? Social Media Isn't Just for PR People
Admit it: we’ve all taken out our aggressions on the airlines, restaurants, cable companies, and cell phone providers by posting something scathing on Facebook.
But did you hear anything back?
Companies continue to struggle with how and where social media fits in to their existing Contact Center and Customer Service operations. Every company realizes that the need to address and respond to customer inquiries – that may not necessarily be complaints — is a growing trend.
In the new book, The Social Media Management Handbook, written and published by consultants at Accenture, the issue of social media and customer service and support takes up several chapters. The book points out that there are two huge missteps which companies make regarding social media and the contact center: (1) applying a one-size-fits-all customer service model across every customer service segment and response channel, including social media, and (2) trying to handle the burden of responding to every single social media message effectively themselves.
The one-size-fits-all model worked well for many companies and contact centers, when fax, email, and the Internet joined the good ole’ telephone in keeping up with customer inquiries. But social media is a different animal, and requires a new set of technologies and a type of agent with different skill sets to handle the deluge of questions, comments, complaints, and the like. Social CRM or the Social Media Service Channel may at first seem like a great way to reduce the number of agents on the phone, but the volume of incoming messages dwarfs any existing call volume.
Companies also need to be predictive about the nature of incoming social messages, and the profile of those clients who take to the social networks. For example, detailed inquiries requiring complex financial services transactions or health issues most likely will not – and cannot – be posted via Facebook or Twitter, and most likely, those who use the social networks to air a grievance or opinion will be within a certain age group. Being predictive about messages coming in through the Social Media Service Channel will help a company in planning and maintenance.
In fact, at the onset, there needs to be much investment in Social CRM – in time and training — in order for there to be rewards later on.
The other misstep with social media and the contact center is that companies wish to handle everything on their own. The reason why this cannot be is that the potential volume of incoming messages is crushing compared to that of traditional contact center communications (phone, email , website, etc.), and the growing complexity of products and services, mostly in technology and personal communications (smartphones, tablet PCs, etc.) make it impossible for a set of agents to know it all.
The most successful companies have realized the value of ramping up their online communities, creating forums and searchable topics, with answers and opinions given to customers by fellow customers – free of charge. Companies like AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Research in Motion have recognized the value of these die-hard evangelists, who don’t even accept monetary compensation for helping fellow customers. (Yes, apparently there are people with time on their hands who simply want to do the right thing. Who said the best advice isn’t free?) Vendors like Lithium Technologies are changing the game, providing online content and community platforms which not only serve as a social CRM solution, but also manage to provide deeper insight into potential product management and development for marketers and the C-suite.
According to a case study in the Accenture book, Microsoft customer care agents have sometimes actually used the company’s own community forums to ask a question on a customer’s behalf when the agent did not know the answer. Now that’s putting a lot of power into the hands of the community.
This blogpost was first published on Social Axcess, on January 14, 2011.