Socially Enabling Customer Service and Support

January 14th, 2014Social Business

Today’s customer service organizations must continue to find ways to improve customer service and satisfaction while at the same time lower their operational costs. Socially enabling customer service and support through the entire value chain offers the opportunity to reach that next level of service that will delight your customers.

Customer service desks and customer support folks, by their very nature, are always trying to improve the level of service they provide. Starting in about 1995, and through the early days of the new millennia, there was a heavy emphasis on telephony infrastructure, voice recognition, and specialized customer relationship management applications that tracked and recorded customer information and popped prefilled screens with updated information to call center agents each time the customer called.

Then came the proliferation of sophisticated call scripts, workflows, and knowledge bases that enabled the service agents to be dynamically knowledgeable. And, all throughout, metrics capture and reporting would enable continuous improvement of technology, people, and process.

Today, however, if the appropriate technology, proven service processes, and skilled people are in place, then improvement to customer service becomes incremental at best. So where does customer service go from here? The next wave of major improvement lies in integrating social functionality through the entire customer support model.

There has been popular evidence of this for quite some time with the proliferation of community forums that enable customer self-support using a combination of crowdsourcing with community members, structured FAQs, and managed question/answer streams with company designated subject matter experts. This approach offers the advantage of providing customers with often faster resolution to their problem while at the same time, lowering overall support costs by eliminating the need for interaction with service desk agents or sending a service representative to a client site. However, organizations must monitor and manage the kind of “answers and messages” that are being communicated to customers to ensure consistency of branding and accuracy of content.

Looking at the service desk operation itself, properly applied social technologies can also have a major impact on the productivity and speed to resolution of the service desk agents themselves. Imagine the collective service desk that can discover and leverage expertise not only within the call center itself but potentially anywhere within the enterprise to help solve a customer problem.

With complementary social platforms, agents would have the ability to reuse the wealth of problem/resolution dialogs as experts work with agents, both inside and outside the organization, to solve customer problems. This accumulated knowledge store then can be used by new agents to quickly come up to speed on customer and product support/resolution scenarios. In addition, a social interaction knowledge base could also minimize the impact of knowledge and experience drain when agents move to other positions or leave the support center altogether, as this information is captured in a searchable form. Looking even further ahead, pairing a social knowledge base with Virtual Agent technology could lead to even greater cost reductions and improved customer service.

With the emergence of business use of public social networks like Facebook and Twitter to support marketing activities like brand awareness and product promotion, Big Data has also come into the picture in support of sentiment analysis and analytics. Imagine leveraging similar techniques to monitor for support issues posted on public, or internal corporate social networks, which could generate an alert to a service desk and that could proactively be responded to using an optimal response channel. In addition, social sentiment analysis about quality of service could be used as another metric to guide service desk improvement.

And finally, the success of social relies on the cultural concepts of transparency, sharing, and contributing to the common goals of the organization. To encourage and reinforce this behavior, social technologies incorporate the use of gamification techniques. Badging agents with earned expertise, awarding support desk personal with kudos for outstanding service, and having a program to spotlight contributions can all serve to recognize the successful service desk agent. This social recognition can serve as added motivation to improve overall service quality and agent satisfaction in the service and support environment.

The next generation of customer service and support will rely on socially enabled capabilities integrated not only with the service desk itself but with the entire end-to-end customer experience.

Tags-   Customer service Social computing Support


John Knab

John is a Global Delivery Director in Unisys Workspace Services Practice focusing on Social Business and is a senior thought leader in successfully architecting and implementing socially enabled Knowledge and Collaboration solutions.