We hear so much chatter that companies have to be participating in social media. The chatter then leads into who should do it….and Voila! A single person is assigned to it. That person is usually born of the marketing or public relations (PR) team and the goal is rather simple: 1. Listen and 2. chat it up in an effort to create customer relationships. Customer Relationships! are you kidding me?!?! Who in marketing or PR has ever had to directly sell or service a customer (let me help you – not many)? So why don’t we ever hear about social media from the people who are responsible for managing direct customer experiences on a daily basis? That’s right, the customer service teams, talk about resources! Customer support, service, tech support usually have dozens if not thousands of company representatives waiting for you to call. Ahh, therein lies the issue. Customer service is typically reactive and most likely engineered to react via the telephone.
It is interesting to consider though. Customer service is probably the one department with the most experience in developing customer relationships across your entire organization. Every executive understands the numbers associated with keeping a customer versus the cost of acquiring one, yet Service rarely has a seat at the executive table. Executives all proclaim that Job #1 within their companies is to over-deliver on quality and service and yet none really have any idea on what the Experience is in buying from their company. The experience is what social media is all about. Every experience a customer has with your organization plays a part in developing not only that customer’s relationship with your company, but the relationship of that customer’s network too. Developing customer relationships are about managing a series of defining moments with customers (ie: pleasant to talk to, was I treated with respect, was my inquiry answered timely, did rep answer or fulfill my question). Contact centers are traditionally very strong with telephone support so incorporating online social media into contact centers is certainly a challenge. There may be nothing more important however to developing a truly social enterprise than incorporating the contact centers in a meaningful way.
The challenges abound. Systems are all centered on a phone switch, representatives trained to be reactive and solve problems, integration into core infrastructure including ERP, CRM, even accounting and not-to-mention many contact centers are wholly or partially outsourced. With that last part it now becomes an entire corporate ecosystem that has to change instead of a couple of people in a department. The payoff though is equally impressive for any company who can transform their client relationships with customer service being at the core. Consider a blog regarding a comparison of cameras debating which to get. If your camera company was the only one to contact that person and offer a promotion or simply a closer look through a video demo, your chances of the sale are good, however your chances of developing a relationship through a positive defining moment are great especially when exposed to that person’s network. Consider a tweet for someone in a strange town looking for some comfort food. If you are the only restaraunt who responds and delivers on that experience, youhave created a tremendous asset in that customer’s network however large or small it may be.
As social media has enabled citizens access to limitless information regarding your product and your company, it has also created a new class of customers. These customers have access to insights, reviews and most of all – random thoughts regarding their most recent defining moment with your company. The rules are changing and contact centers must change with them. Social media is propagating a new class of defining moments for companies to deal with. Those moments are no longer siloed to a channel of communication (ie. phone, email, letters). They permeate all channels and the customer expectations are re-set to near real-time for answers and for attention by your customers.
Companies at the front of this revolution to infuse social media into their service channels will most likely be leaders in their respective industries. Our moderator this week is no exception. Shashi Bellamkonda directs social media across Network Solutions, the de-facto leader in all things needed for businesses to manage a web presence. Shashi is one of the few social media all-stars that actually is recognized in the industry for what he does as much as by what he says. Shashi will lead us in this discussion coming with first-hand experience in how major corporations actually handle social media inside their service units. The topic and questions follow:
Topic: Engagement Through Customer Service: Your Contact Center and Social Media
Q1: When should customer service engage with consumers using social media?
Q2: How can contact centers scale to meet the demands of social media?
Q3: How can you determine if Customer Service is being effective with social media?
As always, the chat will be Tuesday (01/05/10) at noon EST. You are invited to join the discussion or at least follow along by tracking the hashtag #sm41 and be sure to include it in all your tweets. Another way to follow along is to use our LIVE page as well. We look forward to a tremendous discussion!