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Meeting the Social Media Challenge
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For the rest of the September 2013 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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When social media volume is low, it is typically handled manually by one or more people in a company's marketing department. These people are assigned to check Facebook and/or Twitter a couple of times a day and respond when appropriate. As the volume of inquiries grows, it becomes expensive to respond manually to the posts and comments, and nearly impossible to do on a timely basis. After a while, it becomes clear that automation is necessary to respond to the large number of social media comments in appropriate time frames.

During the next few years, organizations of all sizes will need to build a social media technology servicing framework to handle an increasing volume of inquiries, complaints, and comments. As social media is conceptually just another channel, it should be incorporated into the enterprise's overall servicing framework. However, the unique characteristics and demands of social media interactions require specialized solutions and processes, even though the responses should be consistent in all channels.

Making Sense of the Market

There are dozens of applications to help organizations handle their social media servicing challenges, and new ones are constantly being introduced. To date, most have been designed to assist marketing organizations, as they have had the primary responsibility for handling social media interactions. However, this is starting to change, and more contact center and customer service–oriented applications are entering the market.

DMG has broken down social media servicing technology and application needs into logical building blocks to help organizations figure out what they need. Currently, there is no single solution that addresses all of these requirements. Enterprises that want an end-to-end contact center/customer service solution need to purchase several applications and integrate them. They must also merge these applications with their existing servicing infrastructure to ensure an outstanding customer experience.

The underlying technical components required to build a social media servicing infrastructure are:

  • Tools for "listening" to and monitoring social media sites for brand and company mentions.
  • Data acquisition/capture tools to identify and gather relevant social media interactions for the organization.
  • Data extraction tools that separate "noise" from interactions that require immediate or timely responses.
  • An engine for defining business rules that generates alerts, messages, pop-ups, alarms, and events.
  • Integration tools to facilitate application-to-application communication, typically using open protocols such as Web services. Prebuilt integration tools, along with published application programming interfaces, should be provided for contact center applications.
  • Storage to house and access large volumes of historical data, and an automated process to retain and purge both online and archived data. Additional capabilities may include the ability to access archived data via other media, such as a CD-ROM, and the ability to store and retrieve data in a corporate storage facility, such as a network-attached storage or storage area network.
  • Database software for managing large volumes of information.
  • Work flow tools to automate business processes by systematically passing information, documents, tasks, notifications, or alerts to another business process (or person) for additional or supplementary action, follow-up, or expertise.

The core administrative tools needed are:

  • User administration capability with prebuilt tools to facilitate system access, user set-up, user identification and rights (privileges), password administration, and security.
  • Alert management capability that allows thresholds to be set so that alarms, alerts, or notifications can be enabled when predefined levels or time frames are triggered when violations or achievements occur (examples include alerts to signal changes in topics, emerging issues, and sentiment).
  • Metrics management, including the ability to enter, create, and define key performance indicators (KPIs) and associated metrics.
  • System configuration with an integrated environment for managing application set-up, and parameters for contact routing, skill groups, business rules, etc.

The core servicing functionality includes:

  • Skills-based routing tools to deliver identified interactions to agents or other employees with the proficiency to address them.
  • The ability to queue and route transactions (calls, emails, chat/IM, and social media posts) to the appropriate agent, employee, or team.
  • Text analytics software that uses a combination of statistical or linguistic modeling methods to extract information from unstructured textual data.
  • Filtering tools that separate "noise" from social media customer interactions that require immediate or timely responses.
  • Topic categorization software that identifies themes and trends within social media interactions.
  • Root cause analysis, a problem-solving tool that enables users to strip away layers of symptoms to identify the underlying reasons for problems or issues.
  • Search and retrieval abilities that allow large volumes of data to be searched, based on user-defined queries, to retrieve specific instances.
  • Sentiment analysis capability that can identify positive or negative sentiment about a company, person, or product, and assign a numerical score based on linguistic and statistical analysis.
  • A social CRM servicing solution that logs and tracks received social media interactions so that agents or employees can view the post/comment, create a customized response, and issue or post it.
  • Response templates that comprise a library of customizable responses to common social media posts.
  • A social media publishing tool that enables users to publish posts to social media sites.
  • Reporting functionality in which reports can be set up based on collected data, metrics, or KPIs in a preferred presentation format (chart or graph); this should also include the ability to create custom reports based on ad hoc queries.
  • Scorecards/dashboards for all constituents in an organization—agents, supervisors, managers, other departments, and executives.
  • An analytics tool that conducts multidimensional analyses of social media data, used to look for trends and data relationships over time, identify emerging issues and root causes, etc.
  • Recording software to capture social media inputs and responses.

Organizations also need a number of management applications to ensure that their social media teams or departments are properly trained and staffed. These tools are:

  • Quality assurance functionality to measure the quality of social media comments and posts by agents, to ensure that they are adhering to the organization's guidelines.
  • Coaching and e-learning software to deliver appropriate training courses and best practice clips to agents and other employees involved in responding to social media interactions.
  • A workforce management solution to forecast the expected volume of social media interactions that will require agent/employee assistance, and to identify and create optimal schedules (this also tracks adherence to service levels for each inquiry type).
  • Surveying software to determine if customers/comments were satisfied with the company's responses.
  • Desktop analytics to provide an automated and systematic approach to monitor, capture, structure, analyze, report, and react to all agent/employee desktop activity and process workflows.
  • An analytics-oriented performance management module that creates scorecards and dashboards to help contact center and other managers measure performance against preset goals.

Final Thoughts

Social media is going to alter the servicing landscape for many organizations within the next five to eight years, whether they are ready for it or not. This is because the volume of social media comments and posts is expected to grow rapidly, comprising 50 percent of all service interactions within the next five years. While too many organizations will underinvest, the companies that build a servicing strategy incorporating social media will have a major advantage over their competitors. Companies do not need all of the solutions identified above; instead, they need to select the ones that allow them to incorporate social media into their servicing fabric and infrastructure so that customers can interact with them in their preferred channel.


Donna Fluss (donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a provider of contact center and analytics research, marketing analysis, and consulting.


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