Call Center Week – Review and Interviews – Part 1

Call Center Week, widely recognized as one of the industry’s most comprehensive educational and product information events, continued its pattern of growth in 2014.  The event took place in Las Vegas June 9-13, with approximately 1,500 call center professionals, including experts from more than 150 exhibitors gathering at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino to exchange ideas, explore emerging technologies, hear from leading authorities, and discuss what’s working in contact centers across a broad range of industries. The theme of the event was “Competing with Service” and in a series of reports, CRMXchange will present revealing perspectives and insights from a cross-section of the solution providers. Our first installment looks at social customer service.

What do you consider the most important benefits that providing effective social customer service brings to organizations?

Joshua March, CEO/Co-Founder, Conversocial Social media presents the opportunity to delight customers by resolving their issues on the channels of their choice, while significantly reducing the cost of each interaction. In fact, Gartner has found that social agents are able to handle 4-8x the number of issues per hour than a phone agent.

The public nature of social media also means that each successful interaction has the potential to be amplified into a peer-to-peer recommendation, delivering marketing benefit that is significantly greater – and more easily calculable – than on other channels. Research from NM Incite, a partnership between Nielsen and McKinsey & Company, found that consumers who encounter positive social care experiences are nearly three times more likely to recommend a brand to others.

Yet, performing customer service over social media means engaging in a high volume of public interactions in which each misstep has the risk of attracting negative publicity to your brand.

Each individual brand must be careful in properly setting up its social customer service program – taking all the steps necessary to minimize risk while optimizing results.

Dennis Stoutenburgh, President and Co-Founder, Social Strategy1 Inc. (Stratus) Meeting a customer in their preferred channel exhibits an understanding and willingness by brands to show they truly care about the customer experience.  Simmering issues that are responded to quickly with a path to resolution or a simply apology for a poor experience do wonders to defuse a potentially dangerous online viral issue.

Are you seeing increased awareness on the part of businesses for the need for social customer service?

Joshua March, Conversocial   Absolutely. A major shift in how people communicate, with each other and with brands, has been under way for the past few years. Online communication is moving away from private, anonymous, one-to-one channels on a desktop computer, to public, one-to-many channels that are mobile and linked to your real identity through social profiles. These shifts are causing major changes in how companies need to handle customer service. The implications are only just starting to be felt.

We’re now at the stage where social customer service has become an established part of doing business. Tweet at any brand and most will respond back to you, publicly and quickly. Even if many companies are not yet delivering the level of social service that consumers expect, they know they have to, and are working towards this goal.

Despite all these changes, the core principles of great customer service always apply. Social customer service comes into its own when meaningful, two-way dialogue takes place between brands and their customers. With brands clamoring for market share in saturated, consumer- driven markets, delivering great service in public arenas like Facebook and Twitter offers a clear differentiator to build a competitive advantage.

Customer service is becoming a way of connecting with customers in real-time, wherever they are, and on any channel, with complete awareness and personalization. Done properly, this gives customer service the opportunity to build brand advocacy, to drive revenue through both increased sales and reduced customer attrition, and to massively increase customer insight. In an always on and real-time messaging world, consumers expect far more than they have before. Responding slower than consumers expect, or even neglecting to answer social complaints at all, will result in consumers abandoning brands. As a result, brands must recognize that social media has become a mainstream customer service channel, and ensure it has a well-resourced and thought out social care strategy.

Dennis Stoutenburgh, Social Strategy1   Absolutely. A number of companies are still hesitant due to the negativity associated with some poor decisions made by other brands that have gone viral.  We have technology and personnel that mitigate the chances of a poor decision (by someone in the organization) going viral.

How do companies integrate social customer service with other channels such as voice, chat, email and SMS?

Joshua March, Conversocial With our open API, we work with our clients to integrate our solution with the various workflows and other systems used by their customer service teams.  We recognize the importance of being part of their existing ecosystem.

Even beyond direct integration, it’s essential that brands be able to measure their social customer service efforts in a way that enables comparison and benchmarking of more traditional customer care channels, such as phone, email and chat. Not only is this essential to grasp the full impact and ROI of social customer service, but additionally without measuring real customer service KPIs over social channels, it is difficult to resource teams for spikes in volume, to improve the quality of agent performance and to deliver the best customer experience possible.

Chief among these metrics is handling time, one of the first true cross-channel metrics for social customer service. Measuring handling time enables you to compare the performance of social against performance on other channels. Measuring social customer service with traditional metrics is a challenge when social is so fundamentally different; first response time on social is fundamentally different than first response time on other channels. Handling time, however, provides the ability to clearly compare social to traditional channels such as phone and email. If it takes 10 minutes to resolve an issue via email and 5 minutes to resolve an issue on social, you have a solid justification for the ROI of your social customer service operation.

Dennis Stoutenburgh, Social Strategy1   Most either are not or are still in the learning process. There are three components that need to work together for this to work properly: strategy, technology, execution (people, training, skill sets).  It’s an investment, but one that will pay big dividends as the nature of social is one to many. Good or bad interactions are shared instantly at scale.  Look at Zappos as a company that is clearly managing the customer experience correctly and has experienced explosive growth as a result. 

With social Interactions, customer care is marketing. 

Finally, the gathering of all this client-initiated data should be used as part of a company’s overall growth strategy. Too often companies are satisfied to simply “handle” a customer service issue, but not learn from it.

What would you like CRMXchange readers to know about your company?

Joshua March, Conversocial Dedicated social customer service platforms are essential for the contact center. Traditional customer service software is built for private, one-to-one interactions where everything is a customer service issue. Social media, which mixes public and private, can be one-to-many, and combines customer service issues with general chatter and engagement. As a result, social customer service requires different approaches, prioritization, workflow and analytics.

We’d like to emphasize the following points:

  • Customer service requires tools designed for agent effectiveness. Using a social marketing tool means sacrifices in customer experience and agent efficiency.
  • Dedicated social customer service platforms can innovate quickly and respond immediately to changes without the constraints of all-in-one suites.
  • Delivering the best customer experience requires integration into the contact center to provide a multi-channel, single view of the customer journey.

Dennis Stoutenburgh, Social Strategy1   At Stratus, we work with companies to maximize and optimize customer Interactions and experience.

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