An estimated 90,000 experts, media and social media presenters descended on San Francisco last month for the biggest cloud computing event of the year. Dreamforce 2012 featured more than 750 education sessions, but it was a live social customer service demonstration that I remember most.
In the middle of the expo floor, the “Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center” fielded calls, tweets, posts and updates from Dreamforce attendees in real time. The center was ringed by flashy streams of social conversations that resembled stock exchange tickers. These enabled onlookers to watch and learn from their practiced responses.
I was able to glean a few key takeaways from watching the center in action. For those of you that weren't able to attend, here's a few of those best practices for better socialized customer service.
Always Post a Public Response
Salesforce.com Senior Vice President of Solutions Marketing Fergus Griffin told me every company should at least be thinking about customer service through social.
“I guarantee your customers are already using the channel, and they’re probably already talking about your brand,” he said.
If these mentions are negative, social media gives your consumers a means to spread the news far and fast. To mitigate this risk, companies should always acknowledge the comment in social before taking the interaction to another channel. Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center agents demonstrated this in best practices at Dreamforce. If an attendee asks a highly technical question on Twitter, the agent might reply, “I’m emailing you now!” or “Here’s a link to a Chatter discussion on this topic.”
This approach publicly demonstrates that the company is listening and responds to everyone.
Plan Your Process
Many companies struggle with creating an efficient process for handling social media requests. If the community manager sees the comment on Twitter and responds, how does the company track that interaction? What if the question on Facebook or Twitter needs to be discussed privately? Do you tweet your service phone number? Provide an email address? What are the risks of either?
Make sure that your team defines clear answers to all of these questions. You want the resolution to be seamless and for nothing to fall through the cracks. At Dreamforce, for example, simple questions were answered right in the feed, while more complex queries were taken into email, or live chat. It's up to your team to define what's best for your product or service. Just make sure it's consistent. These experiences increase your chances of turning a latent social media follower into a brand advocate.
Hashtag Common Questions
Griffin told me that last year during Dreamforce most interactions across all service channels involved questions about where things were located, recommendations for events, and tips for getting around the conference. Hashtags allow customer service managers to instantly create a knowledge base for topics such as these.
During this year’s event, Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center agents used hashtags like #Dreamforc2012, #DF2012 and #DF12 to index conversations about the event. That way they could quickly reference those tweets for relevant questions.
Then, when a Dreamforce visitor tweeted, “What sessions are best for social customer service?” the agent could respond “@UserName check out everyone’s food recommendations by searching #Dreamforce2012! and #socialcustserv” When they search those hashtags, the visitor could scan through everyone’s suggestions. This saves the agent time, while still providing a helpful personal response.
One of the biggest challenges with providing customer service through social is dealing with the sheer volume of requests. Griffin said companies should have a well-defined strategy for prioritizing responses.
This should include ranking factors from social–a Klout score, for example–and customer history. A company might choose to respond first to longtime customers or those with a history of high-value purchases.
“Companies should strike a balance between who [the customer] is in the community, but also who they are to you,” Griffin says.
At the Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center, social mention identification and prioritization was automated through Salesforce.com’s Radian6 Social Hub. This system trolled the Web for #Dreamforce, @Dreamforce and Dreamforce mentions on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. These were instantly turned into a service ticket, prioritized and routed to the appropriate social response agent.
Engage Customers You Might Never Have Known
Customer service through social media is not just about providing another interaction channel in addition to phone, email or live chat. Social allows you to find customers who might never have sent their question otherwise. And if they never send the question, they may never get their problem solved and fears of buying eased.
How does your company handle customer service through social? Let us know by commenting here.
Guest Author: Ashley Furness is a CRM Software Analyst for research firm Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising.