November 30, 2011

Internal Social Networks and Customer Service

Much has been written about the relationship between customer service and social media. Like the case of Michael Arrington and Comcast, the stories usually involve an agitated customer who makes his or her discontent known broadly via social media, and alert vendors who pick up the cues and respond appropriately. In some cases, once the complaint was out on the social media outlet, as with the case of United Breaks Guitars, it was too late and turned into a PR fiasco.

But there’s another side to the social network / customer service story, which we have noticed in our Convofy user base. Specifically, internal social networks have proven to be very effective ways for customer support reps to share knowledge, ask questions and become more responsive.

Sure, customer support can be analyzed and automated to determine and drive best practices for general cases. Customers’ names and case histories can pop up on the CSR’s screen, and keywords can drive recommended resolutions. But sometimes a CSR needs more information, or needs to run an idea by an associate. What method is used for this more informal knowledge sharing? Email? IM?

We all know the challenges with email for this scenario: it’s slow for one thing. But, like IM, it’s also individual-to-individual. Even if the problem is resolved, the knowledge that was shared is locked inside the originating CSR’s Inbox, inaccessible to others. If there’s a corporate knowledge base, it represents a separate context to search because it’s not based in email. This sequential searching for information can cause drains in productivity and response time.

Some Convofy networks have realized that getting CSRs onto a social networking environment unifies the communication and knowledge sharing process.

  • Response time is as fast as IM
  • Communications are as direct and substantive as email
  • The shared knowledge is as leverageable as a knowledgebase

Here are some of the attributers of a customer service organization that indicate its fitness for an internal social network:

  • CSRs are often geographically distributed, requiring an efficient electronic communication medium
  • Knowledge management and knowledge-sharing are keys to success
  • The ability to review material such as tech notes prior to publishing is important
  • The ability to access and comment on tech notes (after they’ve been published) is also very important. Especially so that ongoing experience on the topic can be collected, and perhaps enable further refinement of the item
  • Issue tracking may be done in other systems, but when incidents are recorded in a web-based tool, Convofy can be used to discuss, refine and teach.
  • When used with a product development team, Convo can be a way to escalate issues to the teams whose products they were supporting.
  • For special customer relationships, CSRs can set up external groups, which would provide a higher-bandwidth environment for working through their questions and issues.

Check us out for your customer service organization. Or, connect with us to discuss how we can help.

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