Social Media: Guide for Building a Customer Support Strategy

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1 Social Media: Guide for Building a Support Strategy Sponsored By: 201

2 Service Takes on the Social Media Challenge Few phenomena have generated as much interest and hype over the last several years as social media. Social media are not a new way of doing business, but rather they represent an alternative approach; utilizing the Internet, a single posting or broadcast can be sent around the world almost instantaneously. No one is in charge and no one owns the conversation. And once a thought has gone social it cannot be retracted. Social media have been around in one form or another since the Internet emerged, but many public and private organizations are just beginning to appreciate their impact and potential. From a customer service perspective, social media have the ability to alter a company s reputation, brand and bottom line. People are talking about a company, its products, services and even its politics on social media sites, whether the company elects to constructively engage or not. Since social media are here to stay, DMG Consulting strongly recommends that all organizations ride the wave and develop a customer service social media strategy that allows organizations to leverage this communications channel to create a favorable impression and build their brand. Building an Enterprise-Wide Social Media Experience Strategy s/prospects (of a business) or constituents/citizens (in the case of a government or advocacy group) are talking about organizations on the Web, whether they like it or not. Fifteen years ago, if someone had to wait in a bank line or hold for a customer service representative for an unacceptably long time, they were likely to complain to a few friends and family members, and that would be the end of it. Today, while standing in line, the displeased party may take a picture of the queue, post it online and share their reaction via any number of social networks. (Alternatively, they could send a tweet with a link to their picture.) It is increasingly likely that a bank s management, for example, will hear about new servicing challenges from people that are tuned into social networks, well before these issues show up on internal management reports. Breaking news, good or bad, often makes its way onto the social networks way ahead of the traditional media channels. Doubters take note: When a plane landed in New York s Hudson River in January 2009, it hit the social networks before making it onto the news. Since customers/citizens are going social about the organizations with which they interact, common sense dictates that organizations should be ready to 2010 DMG Consulting LLC July 2010

3 respond, instead of waiting for an issue to blow up. If customers or constituents elect social media as their channel of choice, ignoring these channels puts an organization at risk of being viewed as behind the times or just plain irrelevant. It s not enough for marketing and sales to oversee a company s social networking interactions. Service or the contact center must also actively participate in order for social networking programs to succeed. Most service organizations have proven experience in dealing with and responding to a high volume of customer interactions, a necessity in the world of social networking. DMG recommends that every organization create a social media steering committee that includes representatives from sales, marketing, customer service, investor relations and IT. (If there is already an influential team that is responsible for the customer experience, the new social media group should fall under its auspices.) This steering committee should create a social media charter and designate responsibilities for all participating functions, including IT, sales, marketing and service. Characteristics of Social Media Service Interactions Social media interactions are quite different from any other type of communication handled by a customer service or contact center. Enterprises have to evolve and adapt their servicing policies and procedures to address the needs of this new channel. Social media interactions are figuratively gifts from customers/constituents. Every time a customer, prospect, partner, investor or a member of the general public elects to write about an organization, they are voluntarily investing their time to provide what could be highly valuable or even strategic feedback. In the past, many organizations have run focus groups in order to gather the same kind of information that customers are now freely sharing via social media. Here is a list of important principles to guide customer service and contact centers in handling social media interactions: 2010 DMG Consulting LLC July 2010

4 1. At their most basic, social media are nothing more (or less) than an alternative interaction channel. 2. At their most complex, social media facilitate one-to-many communications in a largely uncontrolled and unmanageable environment. 3. Organizations do not and cannot own or control a social media conversation, but they can elect to be active listeners and influential participants. 4. Social media interactions empower multi-directional communications with an undefined and geographically diverse population. 5. Social media broadcast views rapidly on a global basis. 6. Social media are a cost-effective method of communicating information. 7. Social media can even the playing field for companies large and small. 8. Social media campaigns can build or destroy a brand. 9. Social media can impact a company s bottom line. Organizations should invest in practices and applications that empower them to leverage the power of social networking for the good of their company. To achieve this goal, they need to be proactive and build a customer service social media program that is an integrated component of their enterprise social media initiative. Public and private organizations also need to tie their social networking initiatives with existing customer experience or customer relationship management (CRM) programs. What it Means to Use Social Media for Service service organizations are not rapidly embracing social media, despite this channel s growing popularity among customers in most age brackets and its ability to uncover valuable insights on a timely basis. In a May 2010 benchmark study of 230 contact center, enterprise and IT executives, VPs, managers, directors and decision-makers around the world, DMG found that only 6.5% of contact centers support social media today. More significant and telling is that only 23.9% of contact centers plan to add support for social media by This study also disclosed that while 25.8% of enterprises engage in social media activities today, marketing is involved in handling these interactions in 85.2% of the organizations, and sales in 37%. service departments support social media interactions in only 35.2% of organizations, and contact center departments are involved in only 29.6% of the enterprises studied. For social media initiatives to succeed, this has to change DMG Consulting LLC July 2010

5 All public and private organizations should actively engage in social media interactions, although the specific activity blogs, networking forums like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace, reviewing sites like epionions and TripAdvisor, company-created community spaces, YouTube and Twitter will vary based on needs of the organization and the habits of its constituents. service or contact centers should be responsible for monitoring and capturing all social media interactions that reference the organization; they should also ensure a timely response regardless of which department is accountable for addressing the issue. Since social media enable users to communicate in near-real time, the organization must be positioned to respond just as quickly, or face the consequences of public opinion taking on a life of its own at a surprisingly rapid rate. All information of concern to an organization that is being published online should be captured and integrated with other customer feedback and voice of the customer data coming from surveys, quality assurance programs and speech analytics applications. This customer information should be pushed out in nearreal time to all relevant decision makers and constituents so that they can identify and resolve the underlying causes of customer dissatisfaction and deliver products and programs that meet and potentially exceed customer expectations. When used properly and consistently, social media represent a powerful tool that empowers organizations to collaborate with customers and other vocal constituencies, without major up-front costs. Of course, a customer service or contact center social media program must be developed in cooperation with sales and marketing in order to make it work effectively. Here s how to do it. Going Social with Service Initially, the marketing department will likely want to own the social media channel, but as the volume of inquiries that require immediate responses continues to rise, they will reach out to customer service or the contact center for help in creating an appropriate social networking presence and response process. When this happens, customer service needs to be prepared. Here is a high-level project plan for building a customer service social media program. Task Assign a. This individual should be respected by both the customer service organization/ contact center and marketing. Ask marketing to assign a social media liaison to be an active participant in the customer service program. (This Responsibility senior leader 2010 DMG Consulting LLC July 2010

6 Task person must be very familiar with all existing enterprise and marketing social networking initiatives.) Invite IT to assign a social media liaison to the project. Create a list of customer service social networking goals that are aligned with those established by the enterprise social media steering committee Compile a list of activities and media (i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs the company s own and public bulletin boards, customer review sites, Twitter, etc.) in which the organization is going to participate. (This list should be based on extensive research to find where the organization and its competitors are being actively discussed, as well as where the company would like to be positioned as a topic of discussion.) Ensure that these activities align with corporate and marketing social networking goals. Present the recommended social networking activities to the company s customer experience and CRM leaders to request their buy-in and support. Touch base with internal legal and risk management groups to ensure that all proposed activities are permitted and appropriate. Build a business plan that lays out the specific initiatives along with related benefits, required investments (people, process and technology), costs, resources and time frames. Obtain approval for the business plan. To improve the chances for success, DMG recommends obtaining approval from the chief operating officer, the individual responsible for customer experience or CRM, and the heads of marketing and IT. (While the approval process may initially slow things down, it will pave the way for long-term success. It will also faciliate cooperation among the various business units.) Once the business plan is approved and finalized, build a detailed project plan for the customer service roll-out. The project plan should include pilots and phased implementations, since there are currently few best practices and proven systems to support customer service social media initiatives. Identify the required customer service resources to participate in each phase of the roll-out. Solicit volunteers Responsibility and marketing liaison and Marketing Liaison 2010 DMG Consulting LLC July 2010

7 Task with the necessary skills. Determine how to integrate the handling of social media interactions into the customer service or contact center environment. Identify systems to support the initiative. (Whenever possible, go with try buys or hosted applications with flexible cancellation policies.) Draft social media policies and procedures. Phase in each initiative and evaluate its success before moving on to the next phase. Use social media to evaluate the effectiveness of each initiative ask the opinions of the people it was designed to service. Apply the findings and enhance the social media channel. Begin the next phase of the roll-out. Responsibility and IT Social Media Tips Here are some tips to help in initiating a customer service social media program: Decide what enterprise and contact center goals you want to achieve with social media. This will guide the things you say and do. Make sure to continuously monitor what's being said about your organization. Don't wait for a blow-up to happen. Have a plan in place for responding rapidly and appropriately to any event that is a major threat to your organization s image. Develop a process to share social media data and trends with all relevant constituents on a timely basis via reports and alerts. Continuously research what your competitors are doing; this will give you some sense of where you have to be 2010 DMG Consulting LLC July 2010

8 Survey customers, prospects and other target constituencies on their use of different types of social media. This will tell you where it makes sense to position your organization. Develop a corporate and customer service policy on who can speak for the company. This can be very open, where everyone is allowed to Twitter, or authorize only a few official people to blog/tweet/comment/etc. on behalf of the organization. Establish guidelines on how people should identify themselves when using social media on behalf of the company: what's okay to talk about, what's not, what can and can't be said about competitors, etc. (This should include rules for what people can say about the company on their own time, in their own personal networking spaces.) Start participating in social media forums in your industry, such as online magazines, analysts, unaffiliated bloggers, etc. If they welcome comments, start responding to what they are saying, without being sales-y or defensive. Be truthful, insightful and informative. This is especially valuable when blogging, as it will attract people to comment on your posts and link to your blog. Online media are always in need of content. See if you can provide bylined articles by your experts in relevant forums. Remember to put a link to your website in your expert s bio. If you're blogging, stick to a regular schedule so that people know when to check back (not everyone has an RSS feed). Set up online communities for support, product ideas, informal focus groups, etc. If you expect employees to participate in social media, it must be part of their job - not an extra. Make sure that those charged with creating content for social media can draw on company experts for timely, relevant and useful information. The experts need to know this input is an important part of their job. Provide some goodies for customers who engage the most heavily and positively in your social networking sites, as well as on their own. These can be tangible rewards (free samples, coupons, etc.), or early in-the-know information that they will spread for you DMG Consulting LLC July 2010

9 Final Thoughts Social networking is a powerful and influential communications vehicle that eliminates geographical boundaries, levels the playing field between companies large and small, and facilitates discussions among an organization and many readers. It s an important channel that is here to stay, whether an organization chooses to participate or not. When understood and leveraged, it can add great value to public and private organizations and their customers/constituents. Like it or not, people are going to talk about an organization in social networks. The challenge is to figure out how to embrace the social media and use them for the benefit of the organization. To date, marketing organizations have essentially claimed ownership of social networking channels, but the responsibility needs to be shared with the customer department to ensure that communications are responded to on a timely basis DMG Consulting LLC July 2010

10 About KnoahSoft KnoahSoft Harmony delivers 100% call recording, with web-based quality management, reporting, analytics, coaching, elearning and survey solutions to contact centers to stay secure, compliant, improve performance and remain competitive. Offering the latest enterprise application technology tuned to the contact center environment, KnoahSoft is known for its affordable, awardwinning products, global footprint and on-demand scalability. Harmony is certified in the Cisco and Avaya Telephony environments, and KnoahSoft is an Avaya DevConnect Gold member and a Technology Partner of Cisco and Genesys. For more information, visit or call , Option 1. About DMG Consulting DMG Consulting is the leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis and consulting services. DMG s mission is to help end users build world-class, differentiated contact centers and assist vendors in developing high-value solutions for the market. DMG devotes more than 10,000 hours annually to researching various segments of the contact center market, including vendors, solutions, technologies, best practices, and the benefits and ROI for end users. DMG is an independent firm that provides information and consulting services to contact center management, the financial and investment community, and vendors in the market. More information about DMG Consulting can be found at DMG Consulting LLC July 2010

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