How to add the right social media channels to customer contact

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As a CIO, I deal on a daily basis with new and emerging technologies: assessing their capabilities, figuring out which ones fit with business strategy, and devising implementation strategies for those with the most value for our organization. So I can relate to the challenge many companies are facing regarding customer experience and which social media channels to integrate into customer contact.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, and most companies don’t have the resources to be all things to all people. Instead, they must choose the path that meets the majority of their customer needs.

One of the key factors in selecting social media channels to pursue is a company’s ability to support a large and engaged following. It’s the classic “be careful what you wish for”: if you actively promote Facebook to increase your number of fans, for instance, you’re sending the signal that it’s now a preferred channel for customer engagement, so you better have someone monitoring the traffic.

Given this added commitment, companies should make an objective assessment of their current approach to social media to help select the highest value channels.

  1. How would you rate your customer contact and level of service?
  2. How many channels are you currently operating in?
  3. How integrated are your internal functions?

The answers will help companies determine the maturity of their customer engagement as well as their ability to integrate new channels easily. Armed with this knowledge, companies then must determine which channels are most effective for customer contact. A few things to keep in mind:

Different channels move at a different pace. Think about the varying customer expectations for response times based on the contact channel: voice (real time), SMS text message (within 15 minutes), messages posted to Facebook (by day’s end). Contact centers need to establish realistic guidelines so that they can provide the same value and level of service regardless of channel.

Customer inquiries are fielded by a diverse workforce. In the typical organization, there’s not just one department that owns social media. Customer contact, marketing, sales, and communications can all be involved, so it’s important that everyone is operating with the same messaging and approach.

Gathering information is one thing, keeping track of engagement is another. In the old days, companies would use a CRM system to track customer contact. If 50 requests came in, a sales force member might resolve 40 and hand 10 off to contact center. Now requests are coming in through multiple channels and being sent to six different functional areas to be solved.

Choosing which social media channels to integrate can be moving target, and it’s not just about the technology. Companies should follow a three-step process to integrate social media into customer contact.

1)      Expand gradually. Choose the one or two channels you feel most comfortable with and offer the greatest value to the organization, master them, and then integrate additional channels over time.

2)      Take a coherent organization approach. Departments such as sales, marketing, and customer contact must begin to work more collaboratively and transparently.

3)      Implement the right systems and processes. Companies need to develop a strategic approach to take action on the information these channels generate, which means developing the appropriate organizational tools.

New technologies are emerging every day, so the most successful companies will implement a social media strategy that is flexible enough to evolve and respond as the business landscape changes.

Let me know what approach your company has taken to social media and customer contact—what’s worked, what could be improved, and the response of your customers.