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Meet Serena. She gives “Social Service” a whole new meaning!

February 24, 2012

Meet Serena, virtual agent. Click her to try her out. Ask her, “who is Mike Kozub” or “Who is LaunchPad”.  If you haven’t already, you will soon be seeing avatars like Serina within Facebook Pages and company websites.   They are designed to help customers quickly obtain the info they need wherever they are online… (and if she stutters, it’s because she’s coming to you from London!).                                  Learn more about how you can leverage the powerful eSupport 2.0 suite that includes  Serena at the bottom of this post.

Bet you thought we were going to blog about something political.  Nope!  We’re still 100% committed to sharing concepts to help New Market Entrepreneurs win markets.   Here’s the latest:  Using social media to get a customer service advantage… “Social Service”.

Social Media is blurring the lines between marketing and customer service.  How?  Consider this from a recent post in Forbes:

The rise of social media has shattered the illusion of control and, for many, lessened its desirability. Companies increasingly find themselves revolving around their customers, who communicate in whatever way, is most convenient for themselves. Since many of these ways are public, the line between customer service and marketing has gotten very blurry. For companies that provide responsive, human support—for those that are okay with things being out of their control—this blurriness can be a huge opportunity to create vocal fans that are the more coveted form of marketing. But for the rest of us, it’s painful and confusing. These changes threaten existing roles, skills and approaches even as they create new ones. Organizations and people alike are struggling to figure out how to reengineer for a new normal that’s fundamentally more chaotic.

…Customers want and expect honesty and access in ways that were unusual a few years ago, and customer service policies need to reflect this….

…There are lots of very practical benefits, of course. These include peer-to-peer support, word-of-mouth marketing and viral sharing, instant product feedback, early warning on product or service issues, social knowledge bases, and evangelistic identification. Yet the most powerful benefits are the ones that are hardest to measure in the short term—more empathy on the side of the company, more emotional investment on the side of the customer. Ultimately, these appear in increased customer lifetime value and employee retention, but these results can take years to appear in the data.

 -read more-

Yes, Social Media is increasingly being leveraged as a customer service platform.   We are not only talking here about companies using Facebook and/or Twitter as customer service channels, although that approach is increasingly prevalent and well documented.   (If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a great book on the subject that’s a quick read and a $7.50 Kindle download as of this writing.)

In recent months we have seen companies and technologies go beyond tactical social media-based customer service (translation:  uncoordinated tactical public dialogs via FB and/or twitter addressing customer questions or concerns) toward a more strategic integration of the Customer Service organization into Marketing’s social media world.  Here’s how a Forrester analyst covering the space recently put it…

Only a short couple of years ago, social media was squarely the domain of marketing and public relations. But consumers changed the rules. They didn’t want to use social media purely for engagement; they wanted to talk to someone behind the brand to get support and share their experiences.

eBusinesses have responded. According to a recent study from Booz & Company, 75% of marketers using social media identify customer service as a primary use of their social media platform.

I speak frequently with organizations that describe customer support’s role as more involved than a year or two ago – typically support provides manpower to assist in support-related social content – but they are not deeply involved in driving strategy.

I believe consumer behavior will continue to push eBusinesses to re-evaluate their approach to social media and move to more strategic integration between marketing, branding, and customer service. Why? Consumer adoption of both direct social support and peer-to-peer support has exploded in the last two years. See “Understanding Customer Service Satisfaction To Inform Your 2012 eBusiness Strategy.” Further, the majority of consumers expect a reply to their positive and negative comments on Facebook and Twitter.

This will require processes being established to ensure a consistent customer experience, a blend of metrics to incorporate service and brand, and a deeper integration of social channels into CRM. Only then will social media reach its full marketing, public relations and customer support potential.

We’ve recently published a document titled “Taking Social Support To The Next Level” that addresses the key requirements of how to operationalize social support across a broader social strategy. I hope you find this document helpful.

While this analyst is, of course, plugging expensive reports (that look well worth the cost if you have the budget), it’s clear there is a move afoot to leverage social media as part of a comprehensive, multi-channel customer service (and customer self service) offering.

A client, Virtualyty, is at the cutting edge of this cause and we are both fascinated by what they’ve built and intrigued by their market potential.   They have an extension of their app that companies can embed directly in their facebook page, offering sophisticated 1-to-1 tiered, multi-channel support.   Here’s a bit from their website…

Still haven’t met Serena,            virtual agent.  Click her to try her out.  Ask her, “who is Mike Kozub” or “who is LaunchPad”?

Virtualyty is a web based self-service platform that integrates Chat, Email, Virtual Agents, User Forums, FAQ’s, VOIP, Desktop Sharing and Avatars. Through the Virtualyty web-based platform, customer service reps are prompted and supported by Virtualyty’s virtual agents, supported by a knowledgebase.

During peak times the virtual agent will respond directly to customers, dramatically reducing response times. Communications can be prioritized so the virtual agent will automatically handle certain transactions, leaving live operators to focus on the most rewarding dialogues. The virtual agents provide out-of hours cover for an organisation.

The Virtualyty platform has also been integrated into Facebook to provide a social media focussed self-service platform.

Virtualyty is actively deploying pilots in a wide array of industries including financial services, travel, telecom, ecommerce, consumer products, software, education, healthcare, and retail.   Pilots will will cover a wide array of use cases from customer self-service, to sales assistance, to lead generation / nurturing, to event promotion, to the topic of this post… social service.   Let me know if you are interested in learning more.

Lots more on ‘social service’ as well as  ‘eSupport 2.0’ in future posts…

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