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Using the Contact Center and Knowledge Management to Make Customer Service Social

Most Internet users aren’t just passively consuming content; they’re creating it: rating, commenting, blogging, tweeting and collaborating. As a result, social media is fundamentally changing how businesses and their customers interact.

Naturally, Marketing wants to get in on the phenomenon, and they should. But nowhere will the impact of the social web be stronger, or more beneficial, than in Service and Support. It’s true that Marketing is pioneering the enterprise’s involvement with the social web. But for them, it’s a double-edged sword. Brands are no longer in the control of advertisers or the PR department, but in the words, messages, and even videos of consumers.

Things are different for Service and Support—customers have always helped each other, and social technologies give them new, more scalable platforms for helping even more. Service and Support owns the “use” part of the customer experience, while social media amplifies the voice of the customer, providing new ways to listen and learn from customers. Social isn’t a threat for service and support—it’s a force multiplier.

There’s a proliferation of social technologies, but a small number of integrated features can help make Service and Support social.

Support forums are the most popular social technology for service and support, but most communities are not well integrated into other pieces of the service website. As a result, they’re used less than they should be. Knowledge inside the communities should be harvested for the knowledgebase as support professionals use it to solve customer problems. And enterprise employees should have a lightweight, respectful, but visible presence in the community: letting customers shine, never being defensive, but adding their voice to the conversation when it can bring clarity or closure to topics.

Blogs are another easy way for Service and Support to deliver information while building relationships. Most support content is impersonal: knowledgebase articles, FAQs and documentation have a deliberately corporate feel. Blogs, on the other hand, reflect the voice and style of an individual, generally an executive or subject matter expert. As such, blogs humanize the service experience, making support less transactional and more conversational. Blogs are also great for addressing high-priority emerging issues. Postings can be easily shared so others can spread the word on their own blogs, status updates or forum postings. Popular blogs score high in search engine results, giving them more prominence than a knowledgebase article.

Status feeds integrated into knowledge and incident management applications can turbo charge productivity. Sure, it’s nice to hear from your friend on Facebook that “Snuffles had a great day at the dog park,” but wouldn’t it be better if a colleague’s status is “I just figured out how to work around the data dump bug in version 3.3”? No offense to Snuffles, but we think the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” People are people first, and employees second. The integration of social networking into enterprise applications—“social in the workflow”—provides an informal communication channel that is crucial to real team building. This is especially true with global teams and work from home staff—social in the workflow is replacing the disappearing water cooler.

Finally, most knowledge management teams we talk with would like to create multimedia such as how-to videos. But budget pressures and a lack of appropriate skills often make it hard for them to do as much as they’d like. This is where customers can jump in. Support organizations should make it easy for customers to contribute tips and tricks, knowledge articles, code samples, and multimedia how-to’s and training.

There can be as much or more knowledge outside of Service and Support than inside. By embracing a suite of social capabilities integrated with each other, with knowledge management, and with incident management, enterprises can channel the passion of customers to drive greater customer satisfaction and success.

Tim Hines is Vice President, Product Management at Consona CRM.