I had the chance recently to meet with Joshua March, the CEO of Conversocial, and to hear him and others on a panel session at Social Media Week in NYC, as I reported in We’re at the customer support stage of social business). As I wrote in that post, describing the panel session,
The big take away for me was that social customer support is happening, and it is growing fast. More importantly, tools that people use for social media marketing are likely to be a mismatch with the needs of customer support staff. However, in a lot of companies, marketing ‘owned’ the social channel to the business. They were the first out there, using Twitter and Facebook, analyzing sentiment about the company’s products and services, and trying to influence influencers to advocate.
Or said more directly, social customer support requires specialized tools. The social tools that businesses start adopting first are — in one order or the other — social marketing tools or work media (enterprise social network) tools.
Social marketing tools are generally adopted and managed by (d’uh) the marketing folks, and are generally oriented toward customer/community sentiment analysis, marketing campaigns, and competitive analysis. In many cases, companies get out ahead of their social capabilities but customers simply expect responses when issues are raised in social channels. However, expectations are rising very fast: a recent NM Incite research report says,
- 47% of all social media users have used social care, with usage as high as 59% among 18-24 year olds.
- Even among the oldest social media users, nearly one-third (30%) have used social care.
- Social care use is consistently high across gender, income and education levels.
And people expect a fast response, as Jay Baer recently reported:
24% of American internet users 12 years-old and older who have contacted a brand in social media expect a reply within 30 minutes, regardless of when the contact was made.
But the marketing department is in no way prepared to handle the hand-off of incoming support requests to conventional support staff, and the support staff aren’t necessarily trained in the use of online networks as a medium for support, either. Along with a concerted training effort, the business will need tools that connect to Twitter, Facebook, and other services, and allow for integration with existing customer support tools, like Zendesk or the like.
I recently got a quick demo of Conversocial, where support team member share an automatically prioritized stream of support-related updates, with support requests or just product compaints pulled from social networks, and allowing collaboration, assignment, and coordination by support staff, as you can see below.
Analytics is an important aspect of support, and these metrics are one of the areas where social media marketing tools simply diverge in their goals and operations. Here you see response time figures and the graph of incoming messages from Twitter:
My bet is that the only way to get a real sense of the use of tools like Conversocial would be to either see it in use at a multiperson support organization, or a well-orchestrated video showing the life cycle of a customer complaint through social channels, with communication to and from the customer as well as behind-the-scenes discussion of support staff. (I think Conversocial needs to make that movie, by the way.)
We are going to go through a quantum shift in customer support in the next few years, and products like Conversocial are making that possible.