Wired Magazine states that the four most heavily trafficked sites on the Internet are Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google. Facebook alone has 500 million users, and users collectively spend more than 3 billion hours on this site, or more than 55 minutes a day per person. It’s a vertitable interaction hub, where many businesses have a significant presence, and their pages are an integral part of their brand identity.
Many of these fan pages offer information pertinent to their consumers, as well as coupons to entice customers to their brand. Dell, for example, has done a great job with its social media resource for small businesses. Understanding that small business owners buy computers, by offering them this resource, small business owners interested in social media keep Dell top of mind.
As consumers spend more time on these Facebook pages, a natural extension is for companies to be able to provide sales and customer support directly from these pages. Check out, for example, 1-800-Flowers’s Facebook page, where you can do just that.
Multichannel customer service vendors understand that Facebook is now a shopping and service destination, and they're extending their core multichannel products to offer apps that install a “Support" tab on a company’s wall.
Once a user (customer or prospect) clicks on this tab, they can engage with the community or a customer service agent without ever leaving the site. Capabilities that will become standard include:
Searching for an answer in forum posts as well as in a corporate knowledgebase.
Rating forum and knowledge posts.
Recommending forum posts to be added to the corporate knowledgebase.
Community is an ideal toward which all social networks should aspire. In a true community, everybody is pulling for everybody else, sharing whatever assistance, expertise, and insight they possess with anybody who might benefit.
We all know that most communities are a bit more one-sided than that. In most communities, most people are essentially there for the ride, contributing little while benefiting from whatever resources the more generous among them have chosen to share. This is not necessarily a criticism of individuals or of society in general, but rather a recognition that as communities scale beyond close personal relationships, the bonds of reciprocity and altruism often grow weak.
This truism applies just as much to customer communities as to any other. Enterprises have avidly adopted social networks as virtual extensions to such customer relationship management (CRM) functions as call centers and user groups. In the new world of social-network customer communities leveraging blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other channels, it is not uncommon that a handful of individuals post most of the useful content and feedback while the majority simply consume without contributing. And that’s fine, as long as you keep encouraging and incentivizing these actively engaged individuals —whom Forrester refers to as CRM highly empowered and resourceful operatives (HEROes) — to keep the useful content coming. In the final analysis, these are the sorts of individuals — expert customer service professionals, longtime customers, or even highly enthusiastic hobbyists — who can spell all the difference between true community and a haphazard scattering of nominally affiliated strangers.
The relationship between social media and customer service is no longer just flirting; it’s getting serious. Among US retailers, 23% offer customer service via community forums and another 27% plan to implement; 16% offer customer service via Twitter and another 21% plan to implement. We’re starting to see Twitter listed in an online Contact Us support section (see Xbox and Rogers).
The essence of social media is having conversations. Customers want to talk about their experiences. These experiences relate to customer service -- complaints, compliments, looking to peers for support. Savvy eBusiness professionals are leveraging social media to offer social customer service in several forms, including facilitating (i.e., helping customers assist each other), resolving (i.e., using social media such as Twitter to resolve customer service issues), and redirecting (i.e., using social media to listen and redirect customer service issues to appropriate customer service channels for resolution).
This is fundamentally changing how companies approach social media and challenging notions of who “owns” social media. Social media was born and nurtured in marketing and PR departments, but its customer service objectives come with uniquely customer service requirements including alignment with customer service objectives and metrics, integration into customer service technology, and support skills.
Part of managing your brand is making sure that your customer service experience is consistent across all touchpoints that you use to interact with a company – traditional ones such as voice, email, chat, web self-service and now the social interaction channels.
What does a "consistency of experience" mean? It means that:
The knowledge a customer or agent has access to must convey the same message across all touchpoints. The voice will understandably be different for, for example, a chat session and an email session.
The agent must have a full view of the customer’s interactions across all touchpoints — traditional and social ones. Another way of saying this is that customer data should not live in independent technology silos.
The processes that an agent follows must be the same for interactions coming in across all touchpoints — traditional and social.
KANA Software, most well known for its suite of enterprise-class multichannel customer service software (email, knowledge) released last year a new type of solution: Service Experience Management (SEM). This product allows the extension of business process management to the front office and is poised to compete with solutions offered by Pegasystems and Sword Ciboodle. BPM coupled with customer service is a trend that Forrester is seeing, as it enforces agent consistency, productivity, and compliance with policy; we have just published a research paper about this trend.
KANA announced today that it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase a company called Lagan, which is a leader in case management solutions for government, specifically local governments. Lagan has solutions for Web self-service and case management that are used in cities like Toronto, Boston, and Vancouver for 311 (informational) calls.
This acquisition holds geographic coverage promise — it will allow KANA to increase its European footprint, which has recently been very small, and Lagan to gain a good foothold in the US and compete in larger government opportunities.