• May 17, 2011
  • By Donna Fluss, president, DMG Consulting

Use Social Media Proactively

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You’ve tried to avoid it, but more and more customers are using it, and you have no choice but to deal with it. The “IT” is not your old foe, the information technology group; rather, it is social media, a phenomenon that profoundly influences the future of customer service. Continuing to ignore it is futile and could eventually cost you your job.

Social media is wonderfully compelling for companies seeking to know what their customers are thinking. (It’s even better if a company can figure out how to incorporate this information into their product, sales, and marketing plans.) It’s an unrestricted and unstructured set of communication channels that people use to share ideas openly and freely.

In addition, social media provides a form of collaboration that companies only dreamt about years ago. But now that it’s here, it’s scary because companies have no control over how it’s used and what people say.

Currently, risk mitigation and damage control are the primary customer service applications of social media. This is a high-value use, as people are writing about your company, like it or not.

But public and private institutions should go beyond the basics of performing social media monitoring and find ways proactively to use it to their advantage. Organizations should harness social media, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, discussion boards, reviews, and their own blog, to broadcast their corporate thoughts, ideas, differentiators, and product information, in the same way that many public figures are using it to increase their personal influence. If an actor can use Twitter to build interest in an upcoming movie, why shouldn’t public and private institutions use it to enhance their servicing image? Of course, the institution should make only those claims that it can support.

Here are recommendations for addressing social media:

1. Contact center leaders should stop waiting to be told what to do and build their own social media strategy. Involve savvy agents in their 20s who “live” online to learn what you need to do. The strategy should address every channel in which you want your service organization or contact center to be known, but it should at least include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, bulletin boards, and your own blog.

2. Contact center leaders should set up their own Twitter account and strive to become a Twitter personality. The goal is to make it easy for the public to find your service organization. (Doing it on your own as the leader of customer service may help you avoid a conflict with the marketing department, which believes it “owns” social media, which it does not.)

3. Staff the social media channels with the same service-level goals as your phones, or nearly as quick. I know this is unheard of, but people who use social media expect immediate responses. If they do not get instant gratification, the situation can escalate rapidly and publicly. If you’re going to build a presence, you should do it right.

4. Monitor social media channels 24x7 so you can react quickly to an attack and mitigate damage.

5. Be proactive. Don’t wait for people to contact you or to complain about your service organization. Watch the trends and build a strong following; as a result, you will gain defenders when your organization gets attacked.

6. Keep the legal department out of it. Adhere to corporate social media guidelines. Learn all the “dos and don’ts.” And if you’re not sure how to write something, check with Legal. However, if Legal reviews everything you write, you will sound stilted and your responses will be so delayed that they will carry little value.

7. Integrate the insights from social media into your contact center or servicing organization. If your customers are kind enough to identify a service or performance issue through social media, fix it.

Within five years, social media is likely to be the primary customer interaction channel for many servicing environments. There is no point in waiting. If you have questions, please email me at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.
com or call me at (973) 325-2954.

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

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