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#GoingSocial in the Contact Center

Social Customer Service continues to be a hot topic.  We have all heard the reasons not to engage – from the “United Breaks Guitars” video with more than 13 million views to the stories about companies that have neglected to respond when a problem goes viral.  This is not one of those articles.  This article is about the positive aspects of Social Media – and how important it is that customer service has a seat at the Social Media table - to ensure they are helping drive strategy, as well supporting the tactical details.

Some 73% of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind. Facebook is the dominant social networking platform in the number of users, but a striking number of users are now diversifying on to other platforms (Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Some 42% of online adults now use multiple social networking sites.
(Source: Social Media Update 2013 - Pew Research Center’s Internet Project)

We have all seen the negative impact of social media on company brands but what about the positive?  Have you seen that new viral video about the Olympics Proctor and Gamble created to celebrate the impact of mothers on the success of our lives? The video was created for social media.  It was created to make people think positively about the P&G brand.  The first time I saw it, I thought, “Wow – that was cool…” and I posted for my friends to see also.
So, if the marketing team is going to spend the dollars to push positive brand awareness, then I think it is our job in customer service to ensure that the brand is seen through the same positive prism when a problem arises.
The “customer service” organization has traditionally been to solve problems and support the sales, services and products of the company.  Our bigger vision is to provide a sincere, professional – and pleasant customer experience.  In fact, in most cases the contact center owns the majority of the customer experience.  So when someone talks negatively about the brand, it is our job to listen and respond.  And with the right response – we cannot only affect the positive perspective of the specific situation – but we can positively impact the perspective of all of our customers who are connected to that person socially.
As we work with companies who are thinking about engaging socially,  I find that they land in one of four categories when it comes to social:

  • Actively engages with customers – and using certain social media sites as a channel for problem solving.  Many companies like @Delta and @Zappos_Service have a strong presence online.  They solve problems and seek to answer customer questions proactively.
  • Engaging with customers on an “as needed” basis – they don't really have a customer service brand or presence online but they do deal with customer service issues.  In many cases marketing still manages the social media channels – and will send an email to customer service when something is posted – and customer service seeks to respond (perhaps grudgingly) to the issue.  The focus is often to quickly move the customer to more traditional channels like email and phone.  In many cases this is not the best response. 

Customers choose channels for a reason and we should seek to keep them in that channel unless they request to move or the security of the information requires a change.

  • Confirmed that Social is not really a channel – has done the research to confirm that their customer base is not really a good fit for social media.  This may be a business-to-business company – where the user is not likely to engage (or complain) via social.  In my experience this is short-sighted at best, and most likely incorrect.  People are talking about your brand - or will someday. It may be as simple as a crowdsource question seeking help or support if something breaks.  Not listening is like not answering the phone when it rings (just because it did not ring yesterday).
  • Standing on the sidelines – I think this occurs for two reasons – the company is afraid to engage due to fears of the potential negatives or they don't feel they have the resources necessary to handle this new channel. But just like the category above, this is not a best-practice, but a worst-practice. This decision is a little like standing still in a fire - while the fear or lack of information may be real, the reality is there has to be motion.  The Playbook concept can help design a plan.

At Bluewolf, we engage with customers across all of these categories.  And no matter where we see them fall on the continuum, our first question is, “do you have a playbook?”  Do you have a detailed plan that outlines your vision, your plans and your policies and procedures for most situations?
I believe the playbook is the key to social service success.  But it is not for the faint-of-heart.  Developing a good playbook will take weeks of work – and focus.  And once you complete it, it is probably time to revise it again.  It should be a “living and breathing” document that changes as the company changes.
When describing the concept recently to a customer she asked, “why would I spend so much time with the details?”  My answer was simple.  Remember when you began handling emails for the first time? We were scared-to-death that an agent would type something wrong.  We were scared that the information shared would be wrong and somehow legally binding.  Social has some of the same fears.  So, yes – we need to spend some time thinking about how to manage the channel.  Not fear it – but manage it.
So – where to start? Here are some categories outlined in an effective playbook:

  • Lay the foundation.  Describe the vision.
  • Define the audience.  Whom are we expecting to support?
  • When we will respond? How and when do you plan to respond?  What do you plan to say? When will you not respond? What are the rules for escalation?  How will you collaborate with other departments?
  • Who will respond? Define the goals. What are you trying to accomplish in this channel?  How will you know you succeed?
  • Decide what kind of person do we need to hire to fill this role?

An effective Playbook should include answers to all of these questions and more.  It is a cross between a vision document and a tactical document – that sets the tone and process for the social channel.  But that last one might be the most important item in the book.  Who are we going to hire to fill this role.  Don’t be afraid to hire that GenY person that has Social Media experience, but be sure they understand this has to be a professional response that fits your brand and your culture.  It is important that you have a lot of trust in the agent’s ability to both service the customer, but also think like a Public Relations expert.
I look forward to exploring these concepts and more at ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference in May.  Be sure to sign-up for my session “#goingsocial in the Contact Center”.  And if you have questions you would like answered in the session, feel free to tweet them to @bobfurniss.  

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