2015: Tapping Into Big Changes Taking Place In Social Customer Service

January 12, 2015

Now we are entering 2015, I thought it would be interesting to review how social customer service has evolved during the last twelve months. In particular, any insights that can tell us what we might expect more of during this year.

My own experiences from my 2015 master classes and speaking engagements are that rapidly evolving expectations remain the engine for driving innovation in all forms of customer engagement. Social customer service is no exception. The range of channels and how they are used keep evolving as a result.

For instance, over a number of master classes, I learnt from Air France that Instagram had become a service channel for them with volumes scaling rapidly. Later in the year, Safaricom in Kenya revealed that WhatsApp is being trialled based on customer demand.

This means we are past the traditional twin mix of Twitter and Facebook. I’ve also heard that social platform owners are now waking up. They can see just how well their services suit digital consumers wanting real time access to an organisation’s attention.

What does this imply? First expect more service channels to surface. For instance Snapchat versus Facebook usage within the 15-19 age groups clearly shows how different generations gravitate to their preferred social platforms. Secondly we may start to see more service capability from the platform owners themselves as they start to understand that service enquiries are a crucial ingredient in the overall engagement mix they provide for brands.

Tapping into An Expert Viewpoint

Outside my own perspective, who else has a vantage point to see what’s happening? There are now plenty of vendors to choose from: another encouraging sign of a growing industry. I ended up choosing one of the original brands in the social customer service space who, in my view, has remained a seminal influence on how best practice has developed thus far.

As EMEA VP for Conversocial, Julian Johns hears the heartbeat of the industry every day and knows who is buying and what’s motivating them. Certainly I hear the brand’s name on the shortlist pretty much every time an organisation needs to beef up its capability. So given that exposure, I happily trotted down to Conversocial’s City of London office late last year and interviewed Julian.

This is what I learnt.

Martin: Reflecting on what’s been happening, what’s your headline from 2014?

Julian: I guess it would be that the biggest sectors just kept growing. In particular retail and travel (trains, planes and car rental). I’m expecting the same again this year. The reasons are pretty straight forward. In these situations, consumers now expect to get their questions answered on social. This has allowed the best brands to develop a positive reputation which in turn keeps attracting more consumers as the word gets out that social is the easiest way to get service resolution. Our top UK retail clients are now using between 20-35 seats to service this demand.

Martin: That certainly tallies with the volumes I’m aware of. Global headcounts now run into the hundreds for the most active brands. So I guess that means the proportion of social interaction is due to keep rising through organic growth in well established sectors. But that rings alarm bells for me since consumer expectation is bound to spill out across sectors, even if they have yet to get serious about social customer service. But before getting into that, is anything else you’ve noticed in your core markets?

1 comment Read the full article →

How To Move On From Silo Delivered Customer Experiences

November 6, 2014

I’m reading a great book on service design. It’s something I’m delighted to have stumbled across. Serendipity is a wonderful thing. The authors are at least 10-15 years into their game yet I only just found them. Even though I’ve been talking their language in a parallel world for years, they seem to have more focus and a better ‘sonic screwdriver’. So I’m learning fast.

They also have some great quotes. One of which serves perfectly for exploring an idea I’ve had lurking in the back of my mind for a few months now. They talk about how ‘gaps between silos that seem small from the provider’s point of view can accumulate to form experience crevasses for the customer’.

Silos Suck

This is a profoundly well made point. We are still in the era of efficiency as opposed to effectiveness. The way organisations pursue this goal is to systematically atomise the world then take each piece and figure out how to get the best return aka lowest cost delivery.

This almost inevitably results in separate ownership and focus on isolated objectives. This is the start of why gaps turn into crevasses. These owners are rendered unconsciously incompetent since they are left unaware of the greater context in which they operate. Their mandate is just a slice of the full picture. Yet this remains the time honoured way in which we try and bring things under our control. For instance:

  • Does a BPO partner providing voice based advisors get their outside-in impact? This is unlikely given the SLAs they are likely to have signed up for.
  • Does an in-house chat team understand where they appear during a customer journey? Especially in organisations which have separate channel owners who are allowed to manage their operation as a cost centre aka power base?
  • Is the ‘put it in the cloud’ SI partner able to see anything beyond API issues and associated performance issues when delivering interaction infrastructure?

Thus ‘services are often created in silos and experienced in bits’. Such players lack the vital context of understanding what the end user is trying to accomplish. More to the point, many will point out that they too are victim of system and workflows that are the product of silo organised design.

Is there a way out? Before giving my own idea on this, I want to tie in another theme which I see is also part of the issue.

Have you noticed the number of articles recently which explore the merging of functions to get over the silo issue? The most popular proposed marriage is that CTOs and CMOs get hitched. Not far behind are the recommended coupling of Sales and Marketing, Marketing and Customer Service. The list goes on. This internal M&A activity has caught the imagination of many and offers a way of saying that the future must be different.

This desire to evolve is also being explored in terms of changes to reporting lines. I’ve noticed this is a cause of much frustration for newer disciplines who feel they are not being understood. For instance I’ve just read an impassioned plea from UX industry leaders who want to make their contribution more effective. This involves them escaping Product and Marketing clutches through stronger CEO links and more expert executive sponsors who will therefore ‘get’ their value.

2 comments Read the full article →