Everyone has heard the stories: jaded customer takes to Facebook or Twitter with a complaint to try to get a company’s attention. Understanding and responding to customers on social media channels is most definitely a new imperative for companies, but the future of customer service is more than listening and responding to posts on social media channels. In fact, a true “social” customer service strategy entails much more than listening and responding to external posts on the internet. It is about reshaping the lens through which a company views customer relationships and experiences.
The rise of CRM systems over the past decade have empowered companies to view their customers through a corporate management lens: centralized access to customer account information, their purchase history, contact information, etc. But today’s customers have different expectations, and, enabled by social technologies, have the potential to impact your company or brand (both positively and negatively) in a bigger way than at any previous time in history. A recent study by the Pew Research Center reported in Time Magazine shows that a simple post on Facebook marked as “Friends of Friends” can have a reach well past 150,000 views. The pendulum has definitely swung.
Bluewolf believes that the future of customer service is about unleashing customer engagement, and enabling the enterprise with customer data that, when collected and reported accurately (into a central CRM system), have the potential to impact your company’s ability to serve your customers in new and more meaningful ways. While contact centers typically understand the value of structured data, the new unstructured data available within the social media space provides customer insight that allows interactions to be much more targeted. The focus is not just about reacting to the negative, but about responding to the positive.
For example, look at Airbnb. In July of 2011, they learned a hard lesson about a customer taking to social media to complain when their apartment was vandalized. Their initial response was lackluster, and negative responses from customers went viral over the internet. Now, barely a year later, the company has come to the understanding that the very future of their business may rest in listening to and engaging its customers (read Fortune: Airbnb: More than a place to crash). With a new view of improving how they serve customers, the company has watched its customers take that lead in leasing more than apartments. Creative customers have started leasing all sorts of services including parking places, cars, and even bikes. Airbnb is hoping to capitalize on this engagement to transform itself from a house-sharing website to a global emporium of customer services.
To successfully execute this vision, Airbnb needs a strategy that involves more than social media monitoring. It needs people, process, technology, and a corporate culture that enables it to collaborate and capitalize on customer ideas and effect rapid change across the company. To win with this broader vision, Airbnb needs to effectively engage customers, on both the leasing and purchase sides, understanding how to make it easier and more fruitful for them to list and buy services through Airbnb over any other website. They need to drive rapid business change around how they market themselves, handle transactions, and support every customer with seamless, high-quality experience.
Companies need to continually re-invent themselves and release new products that keep pace with the changing needs of the market. Becoming a “social” business means giving your organization the ability to listen, engage, collaborate, and respond to these changes quickly. It means that you are willing to provide service through the channels that your customers choose. When you get right down to it, a “social” customer strategy aims to enable the enterprise to understand early, and often, what your customers value, and to drive response through a customer-focused (as opposed to management-focused) lens.
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