By adaptive - June 4th, 2013

Social customer service teams need to be a part of the business whole and not isolated pockets without business-wide support.

Over the past two articles in this series we have examined the power of the consumer in the social space and why it’s important to listen to what’s being said, and the kind of measurements and metrics that could be used to develop the teams that work in this space. In the third and final segment we examine how social customer services teams should not be created in isolation and why they need to be integrated into the organisation.

Taking the social conversations and customer interactions and measuring the performance of the teams in terms of capturing and handling this data is one thing, but for these voices to mean anything, the information must be disseminated across the organisation. There is enormous value in the data gathered by social customer service teams as it can be used to improve processes and drive internal or product change.

During their Gartner Customer 360 Summit the company noted that social channels could not be used to their full potential unless they are a part of a larger customer engagement strategy. At the same summit it was predicted that by 2017 social media could potentially cover the entire organisation, including sales, marketing, customer service and more. The future appears to hold social media customer services participating in all business silos across the organisation.

“The social media team needs to be integrated into all areas of the business,” says Duane Jackson, CEO of Kashflow [], “Customers and potential customers can potentially raise a query on any subject via social media. The social media team need to be able to adequately respond to all of these. As well as having a good understanding of the different processes in different areas of the business, they also need to have a good line of communication.”

Driving change and integration

Whether it is used to facilitate change on a grand scale in a large enterprise or to simply adjust the way the sales team communicates with the client, social media customer service data can play a vital role.

Take a look at the way KLM used social media to transform their entire brand when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010. Instead of the delayed flights, stranded passengers and huge inconveniences reflecting negatively on the company, they used social media channels to respond rapidly to customer enquiries and it has changed the way the company handles their customer service forever. They are now at the top of the rankings boasting a 92% fan post with company comment and an average first response time of 26 minute, according to figures compiled by Expion.

Facebook response times - USeful Social Media - Oct 2012

The integration of social customer services into the wider business context doesn’t need to be a daunting prospect. The development of specific technologies for CRM means that you can tailor the solution to match the situation. As no two businesses are the same, they all have different internal processes and the customer services team needs to understand how this works and why their role is important.

“Due to the nature of our businesses (accountancy) we can’t really offer case-by-case customer support on social platforms,” says Jon Norris, web editor, Crunch Accounting [], “For this reason we have our own system internally whereby if a question is asked on Twitter, that client’s account manager is notified and we get in touch with the client right away. This means clients on social networks get the same level of support as if they had called or emailed.”

The customer service team cannot stand alone as a separate entity. They need to buy into the brand and they need to understand the business.

Julian Heerdegen, CRM Evangelist at SugarCRM warns: “Be careful about separate departments. Separation is an invitation for the creation of silos, which in turn are the death of a unified customer experience. Data quality also becomes an issue. Customer service, call centre, marketing – should have access to an intuitive CRM system that integrates with relevant social media channels.

“You need to ensure that any interaction between the company (regardless of department) and a customer, via any kind of media, social or traditional, is tracked in a CRM system and available to every eligible employee with customer touch points. Otherwise, sooner or later, customers may get the impression that your company has a selective memory – something that happens way too often.”

With Stephen Johnson, UK managing director for Quooker commenting: “For Quooker the key is that the entire team is enthused about the product and the team that answers queries is knowledgeable,” he says. “We want them to be able to answer the technical questions if possible, or to locate the person who does have the knowledge, to obtain it and to relate it back to the customer quickly.”

Stephen Johnson is the UK managing director for Quooker

It isn’t just about product know-how either. The social customer service teams need to know about business-wide initiatives, about changes, announcements and launches. They cannot be caught on the back foot when dealing with customer enquiries.

“The social media team need to know what marketing initiatives are being undertaken, what features in the product on, and so forth,” says Jackson, “This is vital so that their interactions with customers and potential customers are useful, rather than canned responses. We send out regular company-wide updates on what’s going on in all areas of the business to all employees for this very reason.”

Moving into the brand

“Empowerment will help create a unified voice that supports the brand values within your social customer services team,” says Dominic Sparkes, CEO and co-founder of Tempero, “Give them the chance to change the script and enjoy their customer interactions and they become not only brand advocates, but researchers and product and service developers.”

A social customer services team can become a force for brand brilliance if given the right tools and training. They may not need to read off set scripts that tick off set boxes, but they do need guidelines that provide them with a sturdy framework from which to deliver greatness.

“Metrics don’t necessarily give you an idea of how overall social media activities are impacting on other sales channels so it’s important to take a holistic approach and consider the wider brand awareness this activity brings,” says Gavin Cockerill, MD at Flyerzone, “While social media makes expanding your network easier, it certainly does not happen without patience, diligence and a well-crafted plan. The first thing for us was to understand who we are as a brand and what we stand for, then we were able to communicate that through every member of the team.”

Flyerzone stepped out of beta a year ago and runs social media campaigns across Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube and a blog, and they have seen a month-on-month increase in referrals from social media. The company believes that this is primarily due to their consistent approach through their customer services team.

It’s clear that most organisations well versed in social media and who respect its strengths believe that a well-integrated customer services team is essential. A team that’s well trained, understands the business, believes in the brand, and is given the ability to communicate issues across the organisation will deliver superior results. The feedback and information they can bring to the table can have long term benefits for the brand and can be fed back into the business to further drive change, sales, customer loyalty and, ultimately, a very happy bottom line.

The Social Media for Customer Service Summit 2013

October 2013, New York

How you can leverage social media for a more effective customer service function and better customer insight

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