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Social and Mobile: Channels or Strategies?

Earlier this month we hosted a webinar with Mariann McDonagh of inContact and Dr. Natalie Petouhoff.  The topic of conversation was the shift in customer behavior and expectations and how technology has essentially put the customer in the driver’s seat.  Companies are no longer in control of their own brand and customer service strategies.  The customers are.

This webinar generated some lively discussion and awesome questions from community members.  One of the questions was: should mobile and social be treated as customer service channels or as strategies?

The short answer is that it’s best to treat the emerging channels not just as channels, but as strategies.  What’s the best way to develop a strategy that works? During the webinar, Dr. Natalie outlined 7 steps to fast track success when it comes to social media strategy.

Step One: Gather Insights by Monitoring and Listening

There are many free ways to monitor the social conversations that are taking place about your brand.  Social mention and search.twitter.com are a couple of free analytics tools that Dr. Natalie recommends. The great thing about social media: it’s a very cost effective way to gain insight in your company. Use the conversations taking place to figure out what’s working well, what’s not working at all, and where there’s room for improvement. Gathering these insights arms you with valuable information to present to company executives and department heads.  Dr. Natalie suggests taking screenshots and pulling data and reports and turning them into power point presentations several times each year.

Step Two: Create a Measurement Program

Metrics rule the contact center, which is why the unstructured nature of social media can often seem scary to those in the customer service industry.  What are the social metrics that should be measured, and how are they measured?  More importantly, how is ROI measured?  Dr. Natalie addresses these concerns by pointing out the many ways that social media reaps ROI in terms of customer service.  A few of the ways:

  • Increasing customer lifetime value
  • Decreasing marketing and PR costs
  • Decreasing sales costs
  • Increasing FCR
  • Increasing employee productivity

Step Three: Know Your Audience

Thanks to technology, contact centers have the opportunity to track and personalize their interactions with customers.  Does your contact center currently match social identities to phone and email records? This is one thing that Dr. Natalie recommends.  Beyond technology, Dr. Natalie recommends studying and getting to know the way your audience thinks, acts, and feels, as well as understanding the generational difference in communication styles and preferences.  For example, millennials prefer communicating via text and social while baby boomers are more likely to prefer using their smartphones or email.

Knowing where to meet your audience, and how to best communicate with them, is the first step in providing quality customer service.

Step 4: Creating Business-Outcome Driven Content

How easy does your contact center make it for customers to self-serve?  Too many companies waste time and effort creating content that’s not relevant or useful for customers. When it comes to content, customers want answers and actionable tips in a format that’s easily accessible. The number one reason consumers participate in branded customer communities is to get information more quickly. By providing this content, you’re not only increasing customer satisfaction, but also saving your company money. According to Dr. Natalie, content that provides better self-service saves companies an average of $57,600 every year.

Step 5: Designing Great Customer Interactions

More often than not, mobile and social channels are designed with the company in mind rather than the customer. The companies that have seen the most success with mobile and social have designed their emerging channel strategies around the customer experience. How do you do this?  A key component of the process is to understand your customer’s journey.  What options do your customers have for reaching you, and which ones are they most consistently using?  Which paths are they taking to communicate with your company? Which entry points are they using? Email, phone, chat? Once you begin to better understand the journey and process, you can more appropriately shape the interaction by arming your agents with more information (i.e. how your customers have reached out to your company in the past) and integrating your channels of communication.

Step 6: Stopping the Politics, Gaining Org Alignment

One of the biggest hindrances to success, when it comes to social media customer service, is a lack of structure and organization, as well as a lack of proper training. Dr. Natalie recommends developing a clear set of companywide guidelines for social interactions. Guidelines and policies should be less about restricting behavior and more about defining responsibilities and establishing expectations.  This can mean assigning specific people to manage and engage with specific audiences across all social channels.  This structure will lead to a higher level of engagement, more consistency, and a greater likelihood of resolution.

Step 7: Iterate and Pivot

As with any other project, initiative, or activity, it’s important to keep a scorecard to assess what’s working and help make adjustments in the future as needed.  If you’re not keeping a scorecard, how can you make improvements? Dr. Natalie recommends benchmarking on a yearly basis.  Put a scoring system in place, and rate how well your company is doing when it comes to the goals you’ve established for social media or mobile engagement.

Does your contact center currently treat mobile and social as channels, or as strategies?  Share your thoughts below in the comments section.