Oct 25, 2012
Guest Writer

4 Dreamforce-Inspired Tips for Stellar Social Service

Image representing Service Cloud as depicted i...

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An estimated 90,000 people descended on San Francisco late last month for the biggest cloud computing event of the year–Dreamforce 2012. The gathering featuring hundreds of learning sessions, panel discussions and keynotes. But that’s not where I picked about some of the most useful tips.

The “Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center” was a live contact center demonstration manned by eight veteran support agents. They broadcasted social media responses on screens that streamed Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms like huge stock exchange tickers. There, visitors watched and learned as they fielded requests from fellow Dreamforce attendees.

“I don’t think there’s any company out there that doesn’t need to 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.” – Fergus Griffin, senior vice president of solutions marketing for Salesforce.com

Here’s five tips for your company as you enter the brave new world of social customer service.

1. 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 might hashtag common queries such as #Dreamforce2012, #DF2012 or #DF12. This way, when a Dreamforce visitor tweeted, “Where’s the closest restaurant?” the agent could respond, “@UserName check out everyone’s recommendations by searching #Dreamforce12!” This saves the agent time, while still providing a helpful, personal response.

2. Always Post a Public Response

John Rote, Vice President of Customer Experience at Bonobos, compared support through social media like troubleshooting in a coffee shop or bar.

“It’s likely more people will hear about it and pull friends from across the room to listen. This can mean a bad experience is shared further, and faster,” Rote told me before the event. He sat on a social customer service panel at Dreamforce titled, “How Small Businesses Keep Up with the Velocity of Customer Service.”

To mitigate this risk, Rote suggests companies always acknowledge the comment in social before taking the interaction to another channel. Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center customers would see this happen in real time. If someone 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. If the interaction was taken straight to email, no one would know customer service addressed the problem.

3. 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.

4. Prioritize Thoughtfully

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 includes ranking factors from social media– 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.

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. Bonobos found out through the use of customer surveys that social media support engaged customers who might never have sent in their question otherwise.

“The thing that was really amazing to us was 3-4 months after [implementing our social customer service strategy], we found out that most of those customers identified never would have reached out to us if they weren’t able to do it over Facebook or Twitter,” Rote says.

Ashley Furness is a 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.

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