Managing Social Media for business has often been compared to answering a phone; it's just a social phone where calls are made via the social web and thousands of people can listen in to the conversation. As many companies transition from the old model of call centers to social care centers for customer support, they are encountering new challenges that are specific only to the world of the social web.
On a recent project for a large communications company, we implemented the salesforce.com Social Hub to manage the Customer Service aspect of those social phone calls.
The Social Hub is a powerful tool that sits between Radian6 and the salesforce.com Service Cloud. After Radian6 sweeps the web based on customized topic profiles, the Social Hub applies business logic to automatically send social media posts over to the salesforce.com Service Cloud. Once in the Service Cloud, a customer support team can manage customer issues via the robust Case tools within salesforce.com. With Twitter and Facebook, the support agents can even reply, comment, and post back to customers without ever leaving the Case.
While making the shift over to this new social paradigm for the large communications company, there was a need for our team to address questions that we typically do not encounter implementing the old model of call centers:
- Where do we take 'calls' from?
The obvious answer is wherever your customers are, but you’d be surprised at where they can show up on the social web. We all know about the mainstream social media sites, but what about industry blogs, forums, competitor sites or even your own support page? What about newly emerging social media sites such as Pinterest?
To narrow down the wide array of choices, we used Radian6 to analyze tens of thousands of posts from across the internet to determine where customers could benefit from interacting with the support team. In addition to those mainstream social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, we brought in posts from several official and unofficial support forums as well as a few competitor sites. While not as sexy, these sites can often be where the real influencers are hanging out and must not be overlooked.
- Which 'calls' do we take?
After we identified our sources, our next step was to determine our criteria for creating Cases. We knew we didn't have the bandwidth to talk to everyone, so we had to focus our efforts on where we could have the most impact and reach the most customers.
For example, the decision for the Twitter platform was straightforward: create cases ith all mentions of our client where the company Twitter handle (@xyz) was used. But what about tweets where someone discusses a problem with your product without using the company’s Twitter handle? Luckily, with Radian6, you can 'listen harder' to see all those tweets as well. Radian6 enables you to monitor all key words associated with your brand, brand nicknames (like FB for Facebook), product names, or common words/phrases indicating a problem.
- How do we handle the 'calls'?
Our last, and most important, decision was how we wanted the customer support agents to respond on the social web. Did we want them to have people call the 800#, email the support team, or (gasp) ENGAGE directly with customers online? There were many supporters of the ‘deflection’ approach, so that customers could be directed to more traditional support channels and there could be some control of the messaging to the public. However, we found that social media advocates roundly reject that means of support and don’t really appreciate being handed off to a call center, which can often be their very source of frustration.
In some scenarios, it is important to take the ‘call’ privately such as a Direct Message on Twitter, so that account or personal information can be discussed. However in most every other situation we found that best method was engaging professionally and courteously via the same social media channel. The result of this approach was a transparent interaction that assisted multiple customers, created a sense of online community, and promoted the integrity of the brand. Of course, not all support requests end with a happy customer, but the majority does, and those happy customers became vocal brand advocates.
This project was the first of many for this client, and their Service team blazed the trail for the rest of the organization. In doing so, they discovered many best practices for authentically and successfully managing social media programs for business, or, in other words, managing all of their ‘Social Media Phone Calls’. They effectively identified the best social media sources for their business. They developed a strategy for reaching the right customers, and they engaged with their customers in a dynamic way that met their specific needs. What this business recognized is that the conversation about your brand is going on with or without your participation. Fortunately, their social care team is now an integral part of the social web discussion.