My namesake Jon Snow is chairman of the Directors Club (GB & NI), an association for professionals who focus on dealing with customers.Recently he organized the first of a series of customer engagement days designed to bring together senior representatives of U.K. companies to listen to a few presentations about hot issues in engaging with customers and more importantly to share experiences and concerns about key customer engagement issues in roundtable discussions, such as “the rise of the social enterprise,” “listening to the voice of the customer” and “mobile customers require a mobile strategy.” In addition to presenting a keynote on the state of social media in customer service, I chaired a discussion on “perfecting multichannel customer engagement in the contact center.”
To get the discussion going, I drew on insights from my research into contact center technologies and customer experience management. These projects demonstrated that providing multiple channels of communications for customers is no longer a choice but a requirement. Furthermore, it is not just a contact center issue. In more and more organizations, a variety of business units are handling both inbound and outbound customer interactions, including finance (bill inquiries), HR (complaints about contact center agents) and manufacturing (product queries). This situation has created three major issues for organizations: creating a single, up-to-date, high-quality source of customer data that can be used to support interactions at any touch point or business unit, creating a single “voice of the customer” report containing all customer information; and providing consistency of experience.
Participants responded to all these insights, although having a single data source and consistency were higher on attendees’ agendas than customer reports. There was universal agreement that supporting multiple channels is a requirement, and it was encouraging to hear a number of attendees describe how meeting this requirement has become a strategic initiative for their organizations; most said that their main concern is supporting the channel of customer choice, not managing costs. This led to considerable debate on how to make sure organizations meet customer expectations. Some attendees described technologies they deployed that recognize customers and their preferred channel, down to which channel to use at what time and for what type of interaction. This came as a surprise to many attendees, and they took notes on how to do it.
I had planned to avoid discussion of social media, but it was impossible to do. Social media is high on the agenda for many organizations, and we debated which function should be responsible for responding to social media, how to put in place processes to ensure only “approved” responses are posted, and the need, driven by social media, to provide nonstop coverage and the impact of this on staffing. There was no real consensus on any of these issues, but everyone expressed pleasure to hear what other organizations were doing so they could go home and try things out. It appeared that many organizations recognize the need to expand the number of channels they support, including social media, but they are still experimenting to find the best ways to do it.
This outlook provided the backdrop to my talk on the use of social media for customer service. Again I drew on my research into contact center technologies and my latest research into customer relationship maturity. Using these I showed just how quickly things are evolving. Twelve months ago few companies had invested much in social media; today the numbers have gone up considerably. The main thrust has been the use of the most popular sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn) for “free” marketing. Only a minority have begun experimenting with how to use social media to provide customer service. Even for these innovators, the questions are what is customer service when the boundaries between marketing, sales and service are blurring, and how do we use social media indicators such as influencer scores to differentiate services.
All in all, the day may have raised more questions than answers, but it was good to see the high level of awareness and join the debate. Won’t you come and collaborate with me.
Richard Snow – VP & Research Director