Two Models Emerge For Customer Service In Facebook - Which Will Win?

With customers increasingly using social tools (Facebook tops 500 million users with 41% of Americans having a Facebook page, 7% of Americans use Twitter, and YouTube gets 2 billion views per day), how do you interact with and service your customers where they are spending their time?

Let’s focus on Facebook, as it has the potential to evolve into a shopping and service destination for retailers. Two support models are evolving. One model is to engage in support activities via a separate tab on a Facebook company page. Once a user clicks on this tab, they can engage with a community of peers or a customer service agent without leaving the site. There are vendors, like RightNow, Parature, Genesys, and Get Satisfaction, that offer apps that do just this.

The other Facebook support model that is emerging is one that is based on listening to all conversations happening on a wall, separating the noise from actionable posts, then routing actionable inquiries to a customer service department so that an agent can respond directly to the post — either on Facebook or by engaging the customer over a more appropriate channel — for example, like pushing a chat link to them on Facebook. This is the model that salesforce.com  and LivePerson are advocating.

 These customer service models are fundamentally different, even though they accomplish the same goal of servicing a customer. Both models offer transparency and visibility into customer service issues being reported by customers. However, one model gives users a clearly defined playground to engage in — a support tab where you can access a peer-to-peer forum, or a corporate knowledge base, or a customer service representative who is separate from the sales or marketing content. The other model is more collaborative and fluid, where the walls between information pushed from the company and questions or comments that users may have about products and services are intermingled. There is no artificial delineation among sales, marketing, and customer service activities. It can also be used to deliver more contextual service based on usage patterns.

I’m not sure which model will win in the eyes of the customer, but I would be very interested in hearing your opinions.

Comments

Interesting...

Kate,

You can add FuzeDigital, Assistly, and eGain to the list. Yet, it would make no difference -- customer service via facebook is a losing proposition over the long run since customers don't really want to get Customer Service over Facebook.

This was another knee-jerk reaction from the lack of knowledge of social networks by the vendors since it was easy to do. We tried this before with Second Life, Instant Messenger, and even Twitter before we really even understood a) what customers wanted, and b) what it was necessary to do it right. Now, nothing against the vendors - they were responding to demand from their clients (the speed to deliver solutions, btw, is a clue as to how easy it is to get it done - why not do it then?).

Bottom line (and feel free to show me this answer if I am proven wrong, which I doubt): customers don't use Facebook to seek help en masse, nor to purchase through it.

Facebook is to enjoy strong relationships with friends and familly - at least for those people that are not in the social echo chamber.

Esteban

Not yet, Esteban...

Customers dont use Facebook today for sales or service. But will they in the future? I would not shut the door on this yet. And, then, why are vendors like Salesforce (and many others) spending engineering cycles on these capabilities.

(please, try to get forrester

(please, try to get forrester to get rid of the mandated fields above... would've taken me 1/2 the time to just type my comment)

i honestly don't think so, unless the purpose of the social network does change. that's what happened to myspace, what led to their demise - the network dynamics changed. same thing would happen here.

as to the why, my previous comment states it - it takes almost no time, and little cash, to do - why not?

Silly

"Customers dont use Facebook today for sales or service"

I'm going to focus just on the service part (not the sales) and split that up into two separate issues:

-- Customers don't want customer service. --

Forget about Facebook. Customers don't want customer service all together. They want simple, easy to understand, easy to use products that don't crash, that don't fail. Customers want products that don't require customer service.

-- Customers want customer service - wherever they communicate. --

A lot of this will echo what has been said before. The idea that customer don't want to use a specific channel for customer service is unthinkable. Customer want to choose where they communicate and the emergence of different media had made communication lines around us ubiquitous and even more integrated. When consumers start a conversation on Twitter, they want to pick it up on linked in, continue it on Facebook and finish it with a Youtube Video. It's not about the medium, it's about the message.

When consumers purchase a product or service they want it to function. And if they need to talk to someone about it, they'll do it on their terms. As agencies and brands we need to realize that the piramid is upside down, the funnel is a circle, and earned PR is the only PR out there.

Now let's go build great brand communities and have them spread our brand message!

missing the point maybe?

Customers want options. They want to have their conversation on their terms. Facebook is a very viable service channel. It just has to be one of many options. And it also needs to be clear of bullshit marketing messages. if you clutter it, customers tune it out.

Not So

Craig,

I hate to disagree -- no, wait -- i love to debate!

customers don't want choices, conversations, engagements, or options -- they want answers. the more complex you create your service infrastructure, the higher the changes you will not have their answer everywhere.

why muddle the waters with tons of options? if they all do the same, and they better, the customers will find their answer.

unless you can show me any organization that conducted an unbiased, well carried out survey of their customers where they showed they preferred more channels and more options over the correct answer -- I am going to stick with existing research: customers want the right answer, they don't care how or where.

spend the money you would've spent in facebook to build conversations, engagements, and giving them options in shoring up and improving your ability to provide the right answer to your customers - you will end up with better results.

btw, the use of YOU in this comment means any organization, not you personally. making sure this is not personal, just a debate.

options

Esteban, a debate! Lovely! Let's hit the points in separate points.

On options;

Customers do want options. The alternative is utilitarianism and commoditization of everything. If that's your thing, there is a market for it, but it'd not the only market. There is so much market and customer research on this I figure we ate coming at the topic from different contexts. Moving on.

Facebook as a service channel.
If you are looking at this from an enterprise perspective I can see why its hard to get your head around. It's a tough ask to get all your product and service people on the dame page when there isn't one clear and unified mission.

In smaller.and leaner organizations, or in enterprises that have a decentralized model it can be and OS a viable model.

On execution
Second life is not a reasonable comparison. Different user experience with a much different entry process. Similarly the people who build a brand experience online can do a heat Jon, but once they move on, how do you carry forward the quality and intimacy? The tool is irrelevant in this case. The failure is in the brand and what it values versus what customers value.

Look forward to more comments.

#damnyouautocorrect

Good luck trying to translate that :)

My concern is the organization...

being able to deliver, not the model.

two separate points: I agree with you that for smaller, more dynamic organizations it may make sense (emphasize may) which is why the vendors that kate mentioned above are all SME-centric: facebook sounds like an additional channel, we don't have to do much, let's do it.

however, we know what that means... what starts shiny and nice ends up, usually, ill supported and isolated. email, chat, sms, self-service, km, and the list goes on, and one. true, fb is not a hard integration - usually - and most of these vendors leveraged FBML to make it seamlessly use what they already have deployed. it may, just may, work.. then again, i am not one to hold hope for organizations doing things right.

large organizations, this is when my cousin vinny comes in handy - fuggetaboutit! compliance, legal, dynamic processes, and more things that they know how to spell. fb ends up being another megaphone or another referral source for the call center. let's not forget metrics: fb is not very enterprise friendly in the data it shares, so we are doing some juggling just to make things work - we don't always know who the clients are, get access to the right data, and some other goodies associated with that. smaller organizations that are more inclined to do manual work and have lower volumes, may (again, may) be able to handle that... larger ones? vinny, what's that word again?

i have been wishing, hoping, wanting, and expecting better channels for customer service, centralized processing, and cross-channel tracking and reporting since i introduced the concept of the CIH in 2002, and the model for collaborative service shortly thereafter. i am still hoping to see it realized, and we may be in the right track -- but facebook is a different animal -- this is a personal channel, similar to sms and im before - people don't expect organizations to work with them in facebook - this is where we see cousin lou's latest pics and auntie may's apple pie pics. not where we donwload the latest drivers. just because they are there does not mean this is a choice they want... before deploying, embracing and deciding for them - ask them... yeah, novel concept, but the results will surprise any organization.

one more thing: because you can, does not mean you should. the decision on which channels to support is not upto the organization -- Wim was right in another comments in this thread (and not just because he agrees with me): customers don't want choices, they want results, and they want them in their terms. what providing service via fb says is that they now (or eventually) will have to come to fb to get an answer, which is not the way they work or were trained.. there is such a thing as too many choices, and a confused customer is not a good customer have.

my solution? if you want to, offer the proper link and information on fb to the customer so they know where to go / how to get help in the best way possible. offer a survey or a simple question to see if there is sufficient interest to receive service via fb (ask the right question, not simply if they want it - i can tell you that answer before you ask it), and what -- then plan and deploy it.

deploying shiny beads for service only leads to more customer service via chat -- adoption is low, costs are high, results are unclear at best.

(sorry for the rambling, stream of consciousness answer -- but i think i answered all your points -- else, let me know)

Follow the Customer's Service journey..

Hello Kate,

Good topic & good discussion too. I have to say I fully agree with Esteban that Customers seek answers and that it's unlikely that they'll seek them on Facebook.

I think it's safe to say Customer's seek answers to their questions with their friends & family first.. being the ones most conveniently close to them when the question arises..(and yes, this can be done through online Social Networking sites as well.. but do not underestimate the good old phone ;)

Depending on the importance of the issue (can resolution wait or not) to the Customer he or she probably turns to the company's web-site or even helpdesk right away after that..

Only if this attempt fails too the Customer could turn back online again to search for more information on forums etc etc etc.. and only maybe (really maybe if you ask me) the facebook forum will turn up in Google/Bing search results..

So, should a company set-up a Facebook service-page? I don't think so. I believe company's should work on Customer's options 2 first, for which the good old multi channel contact center and an online service portal, including peer-to-peer support community, should be sufficient. If not, how likely do you think a Facebook service page will do the trick?

What do you think?

Wim Rampen
htp://wimrampen.com

really? the company website?

Wim, some companies do well with their websites buy most, especially the.large ones have cluttered and.almost impossible to use design full of spin rather than content.

I'm subscribed to a customer question threat at Telstra about a bug with the froyo fallout. It's hilarious that so many customers come on seeking service, and the.company repose completely ignores the issue. This poor job of online service is the norm, not an unusual exception.

Customers have or will quickly.learn that Google (bing not so much) is the fastest way to find answers. Discussions on Facebook will play well to that.

so, how will fb...

solve that problem, instead of amplifying it?

Exactly! Bill Price's The

Exactly!

Bill Price's The Best Service is no Service already taught us to eliminate dumb contacts.. imho they would become dumbest contacts in stead if amplified..

Wim Rampen
http://wimrampen.com

and why would the solution to

and why would the solution to bad service design and operations be another company owned/controlled channel?

and lastly: it is of course perfectly fine if Customers would discuss among each other about their problems with your products/services AND if they would also help each other out.. This refers to #1 in my first comment here..

And yes, Google would pick that up, which would be a signal in your monitoring posts, on which you should do two things:
1. approach the Customer directly and seek immediate resolution if the problem was not solved already..
2. fix the process/product/whatever you need to fix to ensure it doesn't happen again..

Facebook is trying to build

Facebook is trying to build the ultimate walled garden with the hope and theory that they can provide this "private" Internet where users can get everything there and no need to go any place else especially Google. How well it will work remains to be seen.

We already saw how well it works:

it was called second life -- remember? exactly... you cannot build an enclosed community in the middle of the largest open and free network in the world -- just ain't going to work.

See what happens when you tell people they don't need to go outside of facebook... remember the Echoshphere? (I am not talking about the Pauly Shore movie - the other disaster....)

contrdiction?

Customers won't go to a (semi) walled garden, but they don't want choice?

In fact the bigger the internet becomes, the more people want walls.

let me make it more clear then...

customers don't want choices to get their service, they want a dependable, easy to use, already-known channel - not many to chose from without an idea of what each does or what it provides (i can guarantee you that organizations won't be able to provide complete solutions via fb any time soon - there are data management, compliance, and other legal and organizational issues).

customers want the freedom to chose where they go and what to do, but that does not necessarily mean giving the customer customer services choices. the myth that you gotta service customers where you are is not real, the reality is that you service customers where you can do it better, and where they can get the results they need / want / desire.

so, customers don't want choices in customer service, they want freedom to go where they want - but they want an excellent system that works like they do...

for more details on who to do this, and why, see my answers in the other thread (don't want to be repetitive)

Agree

I agree with your comment, Matt. And, your point about how well it will work remains to be seen is true, and the value and need of customer service via Facebook. I believe the vendors that provided apps to do customer service via FB are ahead of their times as very few companies have deployed these capabilities on FB. But, the vendors all had to do it, as a me-too capability.

agree with your agree

Kate you are right. It's the businesses that are lagging the technology. Or possibly not. It could simply be that customer service is too long term a proposition, and what we are really seeing is technology making the issue transparent.

Thanks for the discussion. Sorry for the terrible phone typing. I'm signing off this thread now as I can't bear to register again. (another service fail.)

agree with one thing

registering for each comment in this blog blows... hear that forrester?

one more point, and i get off my soapbox -- the reason the organization cannot do fb as well as they want is the poor data management of facebook... we can explore that further.

this is not at technology providing a solution, it si a technology looking for a problem... where there's none.

Interesting discussion....

All,
Been following the discussion and finally thought I will add my 2 cents of thoughts....

I would not personally say that Customer Service via Facebook is a losing proposition; however, I agree with Esteban/Wim that Facebook might not be the optimal place to service the customers.

My thought is that FB should be one of the channels that inputs to Enterprise - the point being that the customer should be given the freedom and flexibility to engage in whatever form or fashion they deem convenient at the time of interaction. Now once the Enterprise gets that data, how it is cleaned, manipulated, translated and executed is a totally different proposition.

To this end, I agree with Esteban's last comment - most firms are not optimized to handle social data or integrate them with other data points to create value. Engaging a monitoring platform hardly addresses this issue (there are so many other facets to leveraging data through social channels). Unless the firm starts from ground up, they will always be using social data as a bandage to patch up 'cuts' in their traditional customer service process.

Regards,
Ned

Integrating Channels

Hi Kate,

I love the idea of integrating proactive chat to facebook. Like many others have said, it is getting service where the customer is, and not creating an isolated channel. We are going to look at putting that on our roadmap!

Thanks for the idea.

Brian

Facebook is a good door.. not so much as a development platform

Hi Kate and All:

I am totally in the Wim and Esteban camp on this one.

Now what are the benefits again for opening a tab in FB, or any social network for that matter, and being encumbered by the social network's development platform rather than opening a new tab (or inline window) in the browser and using the best unencumbered technology to meet the consumer's needs?

Organizations absolutely need to be accessible to their stakeholders in relevant social networking sites, but FB and others like it are best used as access points to service and support infrastructure that has been optimized for its intended business need.

Another thing that slays me is the notion that it is in any way prudent to use monitoring software that does monitor the entire web. If you're going to do social monitoring, you need to do it right! I am not suggesting that anyone here is saying that.

Chuck Van Court, FuzeDigital Founder
http://www.fuze.com/SocialFuzeSuite/player.html

Am I to conclude that

Am I to conclude that everyone agrees with me that there is not sufficient value to limit one's service and support delivery by building directly within FB and other social networking platforms? It's just my opinion and I am pretty sure that others of you out there disagree with it. If so, please chime in and craft an opposing perspective and help me and others understand what I am missing. I would have thought that at least Kate, RightNow, Parature, Genesys and GetSatisfaction would have commented. Remember, open debate is a good thing!

Chuck
FuzeDigital

P.S. I assume that everyone understands that I left a "not" out of my post and intended to say that companies need to use monitoring software that searches the entire web versus the point solutions that only monitor FB and Twitter.

Hmmm... That's interesting.

Hmmm... That's interesting. Where did you first hear about this? Do you have other blog posts I can take a look at?Monica Cerna RodriguezMK Partners IncSalesforce Consulting Experts

A few thoughts from Parature

Thanks for the post Kate. Parature offers both models through Parature for Facebook. We offer a separate tab where users can access knowledgebase articles, submit tickets directly to the company or participate in a live chat. We also have a page monitor which will watch the page wall and route service related posts and comments to the appropriate team internally.

We’ve seen many of our clients choose to use both models while others use just one or the other. We don’t necessarily advocate for a particular model, but we do encourage service teams to be active participants in the social media conversation. Everyday customers are posting service questions to Facebook and they expect responses.

In fact, a recent new media study found that 46% of users interact with companies via social media for customer service. Choose any active page and you’re likely to find several service questions – and hopefully you’ll see the organization providing responses. Customer service teams need to do their best to help those customers. Facebook may not have been designed as a customer service platform, but we don’t want customers to be ignored or lost because they chose to approach a company through Facebook.

Thanks,
The Parature Team
www.parature.com

When I hear marketing speak I just hear Blah, Blah...Blah

Buying into managing customer care directly in Facebook and other social networks sets a precedence and expectation that once offered will not easily go away. Clearly this is a decision that must not be taken lightly by any organization and requires more validation than just the "you need to be where your customers are" marketing hype.

Easy access to an organization’s service and support infrastructure from relevant social networks is clearly important for many brands. But, being hamstrung by any social platform’s inherent limitations and being expected to deliver responses in minutes (for free!) only seems to pass prudent business analysis for a small percentage of organizations.

I am still waiting for practical examples of when and where direct integration of service and support in social networks makes good business sense. They obviously exist, but not even close to the degree as hyped by those financially motivated to sell products and services.

Chuck Van Court
FuzeDigital founder and ceo

FuzeDigital: That's a strong

FuzeDigital: That's a strong opinion and a lot of speak from someone whose company has "no fans" on Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/?sk=lf#!/pages/FuzeDigital/132098003493285

What a loser. Go spend your time to get some fans for your business.

Can the grown ups please weigh in

FuzeDigital only has a Facebook account so we can extend Single Sign On to Fuze Suite users using Facebook Connect. If we did not need it for that, we would not even have a FB account. We are about providing great software and service to our customers, not about having FB fans.

We have bootstrapped FuzeDigital to close to 200 customers and have been profitable since our 2nd year in business in 2003. Our customers include many internationally recognized brands and we often win business from our heavily funded competitors like RightNow and Parature. We are primarily owned by our team and we are very proud for what we have accomplished and for the value we consistently offer our customers.

I personally was a CIO of a $50B bank for many years and had to cut through all the marketing hype to ensure that our technology purchases added the greatest possible value to our shareholders. I have come to have absolutely no tolerance for what I view as marketing hype, but I also have little sympathy for lazy decision makers who are sucked into marketing hype.

Beyond the juvenile response from “Ray”, I truly would love to hear what others think. Am I all wet or does what I suggest make sense? Please weigh in.

Kind regards,

Chuck Van Court
FuzeDigital www.fuze.com
http://www.fuze.com/SocialFuzeSuite/player.html

On social media and customer service

I think its readily clear that our customers are having a conversation about "us" in the social media realm be it twitter or facebook. To not at least listen to what they are saying is a disservice to them. I am on the fence about actually opening another support channel on facebook as some have pointed out it can set a precedent about where and what type of support a customer can expect. I am glad that I at least have the option if our customers decide that is where they would like to receive support and we can quickly integrate into facebook.

Channels versus access point

Thanks for responding, James!

I think that monitoring across the entire web (beyond FB and Twitter) using social monitoring software is indeed important for many brands.

The question I have is how, when and why it is important for an organization to embed one's support technology directly in the social networking platform rather than making access readily available to unencumbered support systems infrastructure optimized for the particular consumer need and consistent across all the relevant social networking sites as they come and go? Essentially, when should a social networking site be an access point for gaining support and when should it be a channel?

Chuck Van Court
FuzeDigital

I love this discussion!

I've also been following this thread a while, and I find all of the viewpoints interesting, and also right. There's not just one customer type, and with all of the different ways to communicate these days, people have strong preferences. The easier we make it for customers to get to us, the better the relationships we build. We created our presence on Facebook and found a whole new group of people that we were not connecting with on other channels. Specifically for us, the site became a valuable place to not just support our customers, but to let our customers share their experiences and support each other. From my perspective, the channel actually broadened our scope of reach and deepened our customer relationship in a positive way.

Is it easily trackable and measurable? not yet - but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do it, or experiment around what WE consider quality metrics for our communications through facebook - we are manually doing this now. Is it a high maintenance channel? Yes, and that's why I think integrating to our support tools is a necessity. We actually implemented our existing support tool FB integration as an efficiency for what we were already doing. Being able to support and chat through a new channel without introducing a new tool for our agents was an efficiency that allowed us to experiment even more.

anyway, I'm enjoying this thread and just wanted to add my 2 cents.

Easy access asolutely, but making it a support channel...

Hi Nilofer:

Providing access directly from relevant social networking sites is a necessity for most companies today. Providing single sign on with relevant Social networks may be becoming one also. However, with any service being just being one click away, when does it make sense to build support directly in the social networking site and live with their inherent deficiencies?

For companies with products like yours where the consumer becomes personally vested and interested in engaging with other people learning a new language or traveling to another country, FB may indeed provide your business with an important place to embrace and facilitate that engagement, but even there I wonder if your consumers would not be better served by using online community technology that has been better optimized for getting people to engage and share information.

Out of curiosity, what are your service levels for time to respond to a FB post or Tweet and how does that compare to say email or online forms?

Chuck

Hi Chuck, I Agree, and every

Hi Chuck,

I Agree, and every company would have different needs and value in building out their desired channels. Interesting point on communities, and I've been back and forth on them quite a bit, but am not sold for a couple reasons. 1 - a community for learners and by learners supported by a brand they trust, we have that built into our product, so learners can interact in an immersed environment designed to help build language skills - that's the best place for language learning. 2 - Learners are actually talking about their experiences and getting help on requests from each other and us in a forum where non-customers get to watch.

I think communities definitely provide a more organized way to allow customers to help each other, but a little more open forum seems to work with some customer types. Our most engaged learners feed this fire, and non-customers watch and chime in sometimes. We believe in the value of these relationships. It can eventually spark action to learn the language they've always wanted and to become part of this community they hear about. We manage the site collaboratively within the company and it's developed into an interactive environment that ultimately feeds our marketing channels.

To your SLA question, we do measure our response times and frequency through the CRM tool integration. However, it's not an immediate response as with phone or chat. We find that giving time for others to respond or ask more questions allows us to learn more about our market as well as decreases the requirement for us to respond at all. Too quick of a response also shuts down the conversation since they've heard from the source. We like our fans to participate.

Good stuff1

Hi Nilofer:

Good stuff. Thanks for sharing!

Have a super weekend with family and friends.

Kind regards, Chuck