By michaelpace on June 4, 2011
With a number of Customer Service / Contact Center conferences (ACCE, 12th Annual Call Center Week, ContactCenterWorld, North East Contact Center Forum) coming up, it’s fantastic to see so many tracks and sessions wholly dedicated to Social Media Customer Service. The Customer Service / Call Center world is lagging far behind the Marketing and Public Relations spaces as far as social media adoption. In many cases, the Marketing and PR departments still handle all or a large bulk of social media customer service inquiries. In 2011, the Customer Service world is acknowledging the need to include social media tools into their channel mix.
But I am not sure the Customer Service / Call Center world understands what it will mean to get into the social business arena. Customer Service is traditionally reactive; a problem arises and a customer contacts the organization to correct the problem. Great companies will not only solve their problem, but will also provide value beyond the initial transaction (coaching, relationship building, loyalty incentives, etc…). And if the Customer Service department is good, they will be able to solve a high majority of customer inquires within the First Contact (see FCR – First Contact Resolution). But even for the majority of the best, this is a REACTIVE process.
If your Social Customer Service is only Reactive, you are missing the “Social Point.”
Social business is about forming and fostering business relationships around conversations and interactions. If your social conversations look like this, it’s a transaction, not a conversation:
While it’s a perfectly executed social media interaction, the scenario above is about a single transaction. If all your organization does is respond to social media channel inquiries, you are still ahead of the majority of the competition, but you are not fostering a relationship or adding value beyond the transaction. This is the point where there needs to be paradigm shift for Customer Service organizations. Reactive transactions need to move to Proactive conversations and interactions.
In order for Customer Service organizations to get the “Social Point”, they will need to be able start and maintain conversations that help customers move forward. If someone followed a twitter handle like the scenario above, they would get a steady stream of content that had no relevance or context to them. I would stop following that stream. Now if the stream contained content that helped me understand the human side of the company, provided humorous and/or educational material, gave subject matter expertise, connected me to others like me, linked to special promotions, and gave product warning/issues, I would continue paying attention to the stream. Conversations lead to Relationships, Relationships lead to Retention, and Retention is the main goal of every Customer Service organization. If you do it well, that Retention becomes Word of Mouth, Word of Mouth refills your funnel at a phenomenal conversion rate with near nominal costs. All this becomes a virtuous cycle, more followers, more transparent conversations, more viral spread of your brand, more activity of products, services and communities, more reputational value…
Content creation, curation, recycling, and repurposing is usually well out the scope of work for almost all Customer Service personnel (through Management as well). Next week, I will discuss the competencies and skills needed for a role of this type. But in the meantime, here’s my recommendation for types of content to be distributed (will vary by industry, but a basic start).
Edu-taining: Educational and/or entertaining (the combination of both is the best) content that is of interest to your customer. Some examples:
- Industry news (internal and external to company)
- Product vertical information
- Thought leadership
- Links to Frequently Asked Questions
- Access to new or recorded webinars, tutorials or videos
- Celebrity news (must be relevant)
- Fun & silly promotions
- Great to link back to further discussion areas such as your community or blog
Questions: Ask your customers that would be of interest to them and you
- What products would you like to see in the future?
- How can we make this better?
- Do you like to use this feature or that feature?
- What are doing for the upcoming holiday?
- Miracle Whip or Mayo? (if appropriate)
Promotions & Value Added Services: Specials, Sales, Add-ons, and Service Perks
- Special Promotions for existing customers
- Referral programs
- Add on products that provide a specific solution for customers
- Service related perks
- Flash sales
- Major production issues or outages (with consistent updates)
To be able to create, curate, recycle and repurpose content through you social customer service channels, you need to work closely with your Marketing, PR, Legal and Product departments. You should set up operating agreements with these areas that should allow you and your associates to exercise responsible freedom to provide content without micromanagement. More words of advice, start slow with basic educational content, and graduate to questions and promotions. This is a paradigm shift for most Customer Service areas, and it cannot be operationalized immediately. Like Axel Rose once sang, “And we’ll come together fine, All we need is just a little patience, (inhale) Patience … ooh, oh, yeah.”
Does your organization get the “Social Point?” Can Customer Service organizations make the paradigm shift? Should they? If they can, what are some of the downstream effects? If you are in Marketing/PR/Social Owner, how does this make you feel?