Tag Archives: ROI

The impact of customer service in social media is a rounding error, Customer Response Summit 3

I attended CRS3 (Scottsdale, AZ) last month as a sponsor and speaker, and was impressed by the very open way in which delegates discussed their drive to improve their understanding of customer service in social media, and the ways they’re establishing and improving their existing activities.

For me, There were two standout presentations. I’ve added a few sentences to summarise the highpoints:

Jeff Russakow of Yahoo started proceedings. “Looking ahead,” he says, “the current is not sustainable in the future. The proliferation of devices with all the associated interoperability and configuration issues, and the much narrower margins achieved by companies, are a good indicator that the cost of supporting a customer has to change.” Clearly Jeff says this from his own perspective, however, the writing is on the wall for all businesses as consumer expectations shift and cost pressures build. So what does the future look like? Most likely customers will be given much better self-help and peer-help options such as online knowledge and community forums. Additionally, companies must do more to prevent the customer from needing help. Jeff called this “Tier -1”.

By building more features into products, companies increase their complexity. This increases the gap between what a product can do and the user’s ability. Much complexity needs to be hidden away and, as pioneered by Apple, the user interface will be simpler with individual applications designed around a task rather than a range of tasks. Similarly, the shift towards the cloud (and (applications installed there) will result in fewer installation help calls (because installation is replaced with configuration). As this type of call accounts for around 25% of help requests the impact is significant. I’m indebted to Jeff for his insights.

Carol Borghesi of Telus followed with a challenge to the claimed importance of social media, stating that “the impact of social media on customer service costs is so far a ’rounding error”. Additonally, “the future must be established by companies delivering against expectations they set with customers”.

 Carol also shared the following phrase “customer service is the drip tray of the organisation”. This resonated with me. The vast majority of customer interactions are necessitated by something that happened outside of the customer’s expectation. Whether this be a software installation that failed, or a credit card statement showing items you didn’t buy, or an abnormally high mobile telephone bill, the customer’s need to interact is not always as they wish.

Then, of course, it can get worse when the customer calls to make a change to an arrangement and has to get in touch again because the transaction was not carried out as agreed. Imagine the impact if a company always did what it said it would – the cost of customer support would reduce dramatically, customers would be happier, and margins would be healthier and customers happier.

Customer preference is important in the choice of communication channel, and this is where social media has a part to play. Before social networks, Twitter, community forums and chat came along the customer was able only to have a conversation or correspond by telephone or e-mail or in writing. The proliferation of online channels has opened up wonderful possibilities for the consumer but created a nightmare for the organisation. The best companies are those that are thoughtful about the customer’s preference and manage and meet customer expectations. These are the companies that will succeed!

There were a number of other thought-provoking what helpful presentations made. Full details will be available on the CRS three website. I met a lot of very good people this week and wish them all success on their journey in social media and improving the customer experience. The conference was held at the Western Kiel and resort and spa in Scottsdale which is a lovely location, and provided the perfect atmosphere is delegates sought to learn and contribute and improve.

Webcast: Serving Customers through Social Channels: Looking Beyond the Hype

Last Thursday (October 6), I presented this topic. A recording is available here. Through examples, I explained how releasing a new product need not create the customer support spike so often a feature in the product lifecycle, and how switching from email support to community forums can dramatically reduce support transaction costs and improve customer satisfaction.

TSIA’s John Ragsdale provided the introduction and identified the following as key challenges to community success:

  • Knowledge management: leveraging community content for self-service and assisted service
  • Microtransactions and page views: ‘bleeding edge’ technology does not guarantee community success
  • Staffing models: how many employees are required, what skills, how to manage?
  • Process, process, process: defining the customer experience and delivering it
  • Core vs. context: Is community management really in your DNA?

It’s clear that many companies focussed attention on the underlying technology platform in the early days assuming, incorrectly, that minimal human resources would be needed to deliver on their investment. This resulted in unhealthy communities and an environment that gave little to either the corporation or the community.

A community is like a garden. Having put in so much effort to get it looking good (or paid the landscaper to do this) it’s counter-intuitive to step back and watch the weeds take over, the lawn turn into a hayfield and the bushes run wild. Executives wanted (and still want) a place where:

  • Users find what they’re looking for, ask questions, and receive answers
  • Contributors feel that their contributions are valued
  • The environment feels safe, welcoming, encouraging
  • There is life, interaction, energy
  • Access to the collective knowledge, experience, brain-power of followers
  • Interaction between peers, and company and community, is real and valued
  • Help is delivered at lower cost, and with greater customer convenience
  • New audiences are reached, including those that would never call

So what constitutes the right approach?

Social media, according to Erik Qualman, is not about technology but about people. Therefore, technology is merely the enabler and the health and energy of the community comes from people that participate. They will come, but what will compel them to stay?

Listen to the webcast recording, please. A lot is explained in a short time.

Going back to the garden analogy, having paid for the garden to be landscaped (or having done it yourself) you then have the structure in place but not the maturity. Plants, trees and shrubs need time to grow and they need to be encouraged and guided (fertilised and pruned). The gardener you employ (or the time you devote yourself) is needed and the garden takes on a beauty and shape as time goes by.

Beyond the social media hype, it’s all about people. On the outside, there are your customers, fans, followers. Without them there is no community. On the inside, there’s the team that clips, manicures, feeds, nurtures, moves, encourages and shapes the content and environment within the framework enabled by the technology platform. Get the team right and you can realise the vision of a community and the return you anticipated when the adventure began.