Many companies are guilty of creating a robust and well-planned strategy for social customer service delivery, but fall at the final and most important hurdle: Getting customer engagement right is imperative to your success.
If you do the advantages are great – better brand reputation, increased customer retention and the ability to differentiate yourself from your competitors, thus creating competitive advantage.
After a customer service platform is built that has social media components at its foundation, the next step is to take these systems and develop them to deliver real-world gains to your company. Great customer service is not an end in itself, but the beginning of a new relationship.
Integration is the key to leveraging customer services activity. Today, as social media becomes the main touch point for customer services queries, it makes sense that the other components of your business’ customer services support should be connected together to give a seamless experience for each customer that contacts your company.
Social integration into CRM systems offers a truly unprecedented opportunity – for both companies and consumers. For the consumer, they no longer have to restart conversations as soon as they transfer their complaint from the phone to social. For the business, there’s access to exponentially more data on consumer interactions to help inform service.
But for a truly joined up service where each customer touch point feeds in to a central hub, you need more than just great CRM integration. You need great departmental integration. If your customer service, social media, communications and marketing teams don’t work together harmoniously, you’re simply not going to be able to leverage this huge opportunity.
The value proposition for building socially focused customer services is a complex equation. A report from the IBM Institute for Business Value stated: “Consumers are willing to interact with businesses if they believe it is to their benefit, feel they can trust the company and decide social media is the right channel to use to get the value they seek. That value could be in the form of a coupon or specific information. Engaging with a company via social media may result in a feeling of connectedness for consumers – an emotional, intangible gain – but the wish for intimacy is not what drives most of them.”
What’s more, research carried out for the IBM Global CEO study showed that companies are still confused about how they should use social media in their customer services activity, with the latest research by the company revealing what IBM call the ‘advocacy paradox’ where businesses are betting that social media interactions will engender increased customer loyalty. However, many consumers say they need to be passionate before they’ll engage, and they are split regarding how much influence they think these interactions will have.
The socialisation of customer services however, continues apace. It’s vitally important that all businesses that are now gathering masses of customer data via their customer services interactions put this information to use. Consumers may yet to have clearly defined the rules of engagement with brands via their customer services platforms, but this doesn’t mean that corporations should be inactive in this area.
“If you haven’t done it yet, start by integrating your contacts’ public social media feeds into your CRM system,” advises Julian Heerdegen, CRM Evangelist at SugarCRM. “Every time you look at a customer’s telephone number, you get a glimpse of that person’s latest thoughts, likes, shares and experiences. Not only might that give a clue on how to start a truly engaging conversation with them – it can also alert you to reschedule a call, for instance if your contact has just returned from holiday and is buried under email.”
In the past a corporation’s CRM systems were designed to support their customers throughout the lifetime of their relationship with the company. The CRM platform delivered optimal value to the business via its management of the customer data it generated. Today the new social component has radically altered how CRM can be used to further develop these customer insights.
In part two of their study, IBM note: “In today’s environment, where the customer is in control, Social CRM strategy is emerging as an approach for managing the dialogue, not the customer. As Paul Greenberg, noted CRM guru, shared in CRM at the Speed of Light, “The underlying principle for Social CRM’s success is very different from its predecessor….traditional CRM is based on an internal operational approach to manage customer relationships effectively. But Social CRM is based on the ability of a company to meet the personal agendas of [its] customers while, at the same time, meeting the objectives of [its] own business plan. It is aimed at customer engagement rather than customer management.”
In addition, the insights that social media is now delivering to businesses is melding the activities of marketing, customer service and sales. Businesses should strive to avoid this activity become siloed. This is a clear and present danger that your business must be aware of. Customer service delivery in particular is no longer an isolated activity thanks to social networks. An overarching strategy is needed to manage customer services right across an organisation’s working environment.
The new breed of CRM platforms is striving to deliver these new services and by extension the leverage your company needs to make the most of the torrent of data it now receives from its customer services activity that is becoming more socialised by the day.
And corporations should not become blinked by their need to create ROI or a set of KPIs for their customer services activity, as social media can often remain outside of traditional metrics. Indeed, one of the main issues that corporation’s see with the socialisation of their customer services is how they can show a tangible return on their investments.
At the moment, no universally accepted metric exists, which means in practice that your business will have to create its own. Often, though, the gains will be intangible such as positive sentiment or brand advocacy that are difficult to measure, but that clearly have a commercial impact on your business.
The IBM study concludes: “Social media programs often have a defined mission, set of guidelines, and some degree of analytics, governance and executive endorsement. A Social CRM strategy takes social media programs a step further, moving beyond the domain of a single function, such as marketing, to implement a cross-functional network of integrated communities with customer- facing responsibilities, such as customer care and sales.
“This integrated approach treats the customer holistically and facilitates sharing customer insights derived from unstructured data captured through multiple social touch points, as well as structured data from traditional channels. These insights enable companies to improve the customer experience and can result in the development of innovative new models for customer engagement.”
With SugarCRM’s Julian Heerdegen concluding: “Have workflows in place that track and archive all interactions between company and customer – and then subsequently make them available to all eligible employees. Every customer-facing employee will need some level of access. Anything less will work against the grain of a consistent response. Be sure to get a CRM system that makes building these workflows easy and inexpensive. Finally, CRM systems of the future have to be open – so as to be able to integrate new social media channels and platforms as they spring into existence.”
Once the social components of your business’ customer services are set up, the next phase of development can begin. The key take away is that the data that customers provide during their customer services conversations should not be ignored. This data is dynamic, and can be used constructively by your business to improve many of its processes.
Glen Ramsey, CRM Solution Consultant at Aptean
A The goal with customer service and social media is to seamlessly drive social media customer queries into your existing business processes, so the right person in your organization is able to provide the relevant answer.
Responding via the same media the query was raised is important for ensuring not only the posters’ loyalty is strengthened, but also any other viewer is able to share in the satisfaction of a query that is publically seen to be dealt with. Even responding to social media queries to explain that the query has been received and the responder will be contacted privately can lead to a much more powerful conclusion: the original poster later advertising how the query was dealt with to their satisfaction.
Here you meet the utopia of social media; your customer is selling the benefits of your service for you! You can only achieve this if your existing business processes, teams and individuals have access to communicate using their existing business tools to the social world.
Q How could a corporation via its social media enable customer services to look human but remain professional?
A Bringing social updates into your existing processes with the addition that a tool that allows, where appropriate, the content and message of social updates to be in line with corporate guidelines. This must be a progressive step towards individuals becoming responsible.
However, in the early days of an organisation ‘becoming social’ it is often best practice to have social updates vetted. Over time this is relaxed. Your goal is to create a social media strategy, because without one you cannot gauge how well you are doing. You can only create a strategy by beginning to engage with your customers over social media.
Q Prioritisation – should you or shouldn’t you? Should different customers get different levels of care based on their influence? How can you manage this balance in your company?
A Influence is notoriously difficult to measure accurately. In many regulated markets maintaining consistency with which you serve customers is a key prerequisite. Your treatment of a customer over social media should be no different to that of your current processes.
Q How can a corporation take their first steps towards CRM integration?
A If you are lucky enough to already be using a line of business solution that provides a mechanism for you to start communication socially your first step should be to listen. Then listen some more. From this you can start to build a strategy. And remember, social media doesn’t have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy – you should be aiming to use social media as your eyes and ears on your customers, prospects and competitors.
Q Are systems and tools now available that ensure hot leads are identified and passed on to the right team to handle?
A Social CRM brings the power of the social web into your business where it’s most relevant and valuable: by integrating it seamlessly within your CRM system. Specific solutions integrate the most popular and ubiquitous social media tools — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, InsideView, and Google BlogSearch — with your users’ daily activity hub. This then brings the deep insight and business intelligence of social media sites into your customer and prospect database, while incorporating social media elements into your team’s natural daily workflows.
Q How can CRM systems offer a social component that offers trend tracking to monitor social interaction to spot trends and interests that you can leverage for better business performance?
A Organisations with CRM solutions in place already should be ideally placed to do this now. Tracking social media updates should be akin to tracking existing interactions, whether they are emails, telephone calls, meetings or tasks.
Social media updates are information of the same nature just transported differently. Your ability to monitor, track and spot trends, in this day and age, should not be limited by your CRM system but only by your desire to open your organisations existing processes to the information flow available within social media.
Q How can CRM systems offer Company-wide reporting to energise not only the customer service department, but also the whole business?
A Delivering corporation-wide information has always been the utopia advertised by the early ‘Intranets’. Those days haven’t gone. However, we’ve now become more interactive. Certainly gone are the days where you are merely a spectator. If you are not already you should be taking part in that information sharing. Furthermore, your staff should be deciding for themselves what internal information feeds they receive and respond to.
Your organisation is a hive of innovation, just like the Internet itself. Don’t let engagement be the prelude of the Internet, allow your staff to engage with one another and to share the results on the Internet. Through dynamic CRM dashboards your staff should already be able to share and see what is being shared and discuss.
Customer service doesn’t always have to be about dealing with problems. Sure, you can mitigate the negatives using social media, but why not go looking for people looking for help? Combining your internal desire to share ideas, get your staff actively engaging with thought-leaders out on the social Internet, respond to those on social media who express ‘wishes’ surrounding your service. Whilst we can’t always promise to be everything to everyone, showing that you are listening will keep more coming.
Q How can the CRM systems in place offer workflow management between customer service, social media and marketing to ensure a consistent response?
A Often the word ‘automation’ is used in conjunction with CRM. It is certainly true that CRM should automate many, if not all, predictable events and procedures within any organisation, passing information between people and external systems such as ERP.
However, CRM is not a replacement for human discussion and decision, it is a tool to help facilitate these, to prompt them to occur. CRMs role has always been the job of preventing separate disjointed information silos being created by different departments. Those staff in their roles will know the information they require. Before CRM they would collate this information for themselves often duplicated, misunderstanding and being out of date the moment it was recorded.
Housing all this information within CRM and your staff having the confidence that it is up-to-date will in itself promote consistency. Automation can go some way to being a catalyst to this. However, the true driver of CRM has to come from within. Having your CRM embed itself within the tools you already use is a crucial stepping-stone to achieving a CRM system that everyone believes in.
Your CRM system must be the go-to for everything, from reception, through sales, marketing and service, all the way to the boardroom. “If it isn’t in CRM it didn’t happen” is a mantra quoted by many CRM advocates. Driving CRM with a stick won’t work, but driving CRM with culture will.
User confidence is difficult to create, with many users adopting the ‘3-1 standpoint’ which states that they expect to get 3 times as much information from CRM as they put it. In truth, a CRM system that is designed to explicitly separate social media from marketing, service and sales is doomed to failure.
Social media information is no more different than any other information that arrives into your organisation, such as emails. Therefore, the true measure of whether your CRMs workflow is working for you is if you can as easily reply to an email as you can a tweet and ensure those that need to know are easily presented with the results.