Customer Engagement

Collaborative Customer Care

Maren Symonds

Ready or not, we’ve left the Information Age and plunged headlong into an Age of Collaboration. Through blogs, tweets, walls and a variety of other forums, we have ample opportunity to connect with family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances … even complete strangers. We share news and experiences and listen attentively to opinions, delights, horror stories and “expert advice”. Social networking has become a way of life. Despite prolific media attention to this worldwide phenomenon, contact centers may be cautious about collaborative offerings. Some may doubt the value for their customers or their company or be unsure of where these tools fit with more traditional offerings.

Others may be concerned about the time, budget and/or staff to take on social media, especially when those resources are in demand for other important initiatives. But with effective use of enabling technology, contact centers can tap into the collective conscience to elevate awareness of customer sentiment, respond to service issues before they go “viral,” open valuable channels of support, and increase effectiveness among service representatives (see Figure 1 below).

Listen to the Voice of Your Customer

Your customers and prospects have always shared experiences and opinions concerning products and services with family, friends and acquaintances. They rely on one another when making informed decisions about new purchases or when dealing with particularly troublesome issues—if only to have a shoulder to cry on. In the Age of Collaboration, this communication channel has morphed from personalized word of- mouth to a global party line with millions of opinion-makers and hundreds of millions of listeners. There’s no control over what people say, how they say it or how much they influence others. It’s something that’s impossible to manage and impossible to ignore.

Fortunately, there are social media monitoring, engagement and workflow management tools that can help you sift through a sea of information to find a treasure trove of useful insights and actionable plans. Software applications from companies like Radian6 and Buzzient search millions of public websites—e.g., online news publications, blogs, forums, photo/video sharing, social networks—to find and extract content based on mentions of defined keywords. Their sophisticated analytics engines process all of this data to identify:

  • The most important channels and influencers based on vote count, comment count, followers/friends, hyperlinks, views expressed
  • Public sentiment about your products and services—positive, negative, neutral— based on customer-defined criteria
  • Attitudes toward your competitor’s products and services – Topics and issues around which most comments focus
  • Individual posts that merit a direct and personalized response

An accompanying contact or workflow management tool assigns individual posts to team members for action and response. Responses and information can be shared within the team. For example, the contact center can take responsibility for answering questions or resolving problems while gaining input from or providing feedback to the product development, marketing, and/ or public relations departments. Reporting and metrics tools track activity and assess results and trends. And integration with CRM—or “Social CRM”—solution providers ensures that the transaction history is captured for future reference.

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