Suppliers don’t hide behind telephone menus, speak to to your customers, better still socialise with them!
This article is found at http://networkedblogs.com/4iHrD
Lauren Vargas is a Community Manager at Radian6, the social media monitoring and engagement platform. She blogs at Communicators Anonymous and is @VargasL on Twitter.
The debate over who owns the customer still looms in the shadows of company hallways and conference rooms. There is no one right answer because every department, team and employee owns the customer and takes part in shaping a positive customer experience.
Customer service is no longer an area to triage customer complaints. It’s about anticipating customer needs at the right time and place. Organizations must relearn how to interact with their community, shed some of the heavily automated barriers, and get back to the basics of customer service.
1. Apply Your Current Service Strategy to Social Media
To get where you’re going, sometimes it’s helpful to learn more about out where you’ve been.
Most likely, your company has a customer service and response strategy in place to handle issues through e-mail, chat and phone. Avoid reinventing the wheel by creating new response strategies and processes. Take time to review how customer inquiries and outreach are currently being handled. What are the customer service goals? Do any current processes need to be updated? Can current strategies be adopted for social media implementation?
Answer these questions, and you are not only improving your company’s customer service, but making it possible for any person in your organization to take on this task.
2. Put Human Relationships Back Into Your Service
The human element has been taken out of the customer service experience in many companies and replaced with automated messages and prompts. By the time a human operator is reached, their responses are often scripted and they do not have the authority or knowledge to solve complex issues. As elementary as it may sound, organizations need to empower their workforce to go beyond canned responses and develop a more relationship-building approach to customer service, as opposed to one-off interactions.
Adding social back into the customer service mix does not involve throwing out processes already in place, but improving upon them. Begin by establishing customer engagement policies. Social media policies and guidelines can provide the education and structure for how to engage online, and empower your workforce to operate within accepted and encouraged boundaries with the freedom to be themselves.
Next, coordinate a system of gathering information, categorizing, segmenting and analyzing customer engagement that is transparent within your company. Finally, establish workflows to distribute customer engagement responsibilities throughout the organization to ensure the right person is interacting with the right customer at the right time.
3. Establish a Knowledge Base
The customer service department is often separated from the rest of the company, training and operating in a “silo.” Bring customer service agents out from the shadows and provide them with the training they need to engage customers on their turf within the social web.
Establish a company wiki where all departments can contribute social media knowledge and lessons learned. Train agents beyond their role. Develop subject matter experts who can handle taking conversations to the next level and solve issues in real-time on the channel of the customer’s choice.
In turn, allow your customer service agents to be the teachers and share best practices from the trenches of phone, e-mail and chat support. What are the frequently asked questions? How do agents currently deal with sticky customer issues? What actionable insights can be gleaned from the types of issues and responses from inbound calls, e-mail and chat? Your customer service agents can illuminate new paths and caution you in areas they have already explored.
4. Set Expectations
One of the goals and challenges of providing customer service through social media channels is to mine data for actionable insights that will enable highly personal and proactive service. Determine the channels where the bulk of your customer conversation is occurring. Avoid the trap of participating in all channels to serve all customers, which may only overextend your team. Pinpoint the channels your organization can afford to place resources and invest in community participation. Then, analyze these areas for broader trends. Online channel behavior is not indicative of your total customer base, but tying this data back to traditional CRM analysis can yield valuable insights for your response strategy.
Further, just like your customer service department has set hours of business, so should your service in social channels. Conversations are 24/7, and issues may arise in off hours, but it is essential to set expectations of service up front. Your workforce may choose to handle issues off the clock within the framework of your organization’s social media guidelines, but you should clearly outline this capacity in your profile or bio.
5. Perform Quality Assurance
Online interaction offers a glimpse into what your customers think about your company, workforce, products and/or services. Embrace this culture of feedback even though the majority of conversations may not occur in your own managed communities.
Improve your online engagement by asking the community about your performance. Similar to a typical call center experience, after an agent or employee has an exchange on Twitter () or another social channel, send the person a survey about their recent online customer service exchange. Use this feedback to assist in overall response strategies and evaluation of participation in social channels.
Maintain patience and consistency by first establishing measurable goals and objectives of how your organization will engage in the social space. Align these metrics with overall business goals. Talk to the marketing, communication and sales departments to establish metrics that will measure your collective efforts and give a holistic view of the customer’s online behavior.
Benchmark your progress. Take time to reevaluate processes, take action on feedback and don’t give up because of some rocky roads. There were rough times when e-mail and chat were implemented. Social media interaction will have growing pains just like any other business channel, but you have to make the investment.
Each company must forge its own path to integrating social into the customer service mix. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is how we got to this heavily automated customer service triage position in the first place.
The companies that are embracing social media as a service solution are succeeding because they realize their employees are the best company evangelists and operators of front-line engagement. Those organizations that treat their employees as humans are also those who are treating their customers as humans, and not a faceless CRM number.