Three years ago a gathering of customer service professionals was a dour affair, as these well-meaning folks grappled with the onslaught of social media. Back then, social was an irritant: a brightly costumed character that many hoped would just go away with a bite-sized homage. Fast forward to the recent Incite Customer Service Summit and you’d see, like we did, a transformation not unlike Clark Kent’s to Superman. Lest you think we’re exaggerating, read on.
Sizing Up

Since social media crises rocked brands like Comcast and Domino’s several years ago, it would be hard to find a F1000 company that didn’t take customer service via social channels seriously. In fact, many brands have staffed up. Comcast’s Jared Schultheis reported that his Digital Care team is up to 85 staffers, and many more are expected to join in the next 12 months. These aren’t former interns either — many come straight from the call center and are trained to handle technical issues on the spot.

Servicing Within the Channel

With larger and better-trained staffers, enlightened brands are now trying to deal with service issues in channel instead of shifting these conversations elsewhere. Even tech firms like Google and Microsoft reported the ability to resolve often complicated technical issues via character-restricted channels like Twitter. This seismic shift has resulted in faster problem resolution, generally happier customers and higher employee satisfaction, since customer service staffers see the benefit of their efforts in real time.

Merging Social Into Customer Care

Increasingly, brands are recognizing that consumers don’t distinguish between social and more traditional service channels, and therefore, neither should they. At minimum, social teams, who are often the first to hear about issues, are sharing them with their contact center brethren and product teams in real time using sophisticated software like Lithium. The result for the brand is a more unified approach and, in some cases, a merging of the two silos. The result for the customer is a far more seamless experience.

Listening and Acting

The use of sophisticated listening software is hardly new among large brands. What is new is their ability to sort through all of the noise, identify product improvement opportunities and then persuade the organization to make requested changes. Nadia Lee, Google’s Social Engagement Program Manager, reported that her team had identified and corrected 50 bugs in their AdWords product via social feedback. They also followed up on 30+ feature requests gleaned from social channels, leading to further customer delight.

Preempting Customer Service Issues

When asked if his team had proactively impacted product development, Microsoft’s Nabil Pike, Lead Program Manager, Consumer Support Experience, shared a story about working with the Windows 10 development team to include a troubleshooting tool for Internet access. This request was based on the high volume of customer service issues related to this topic that his team had dealt with previously, and as a result, the number of Internet access related issues declined significantly with the Windows 10 launch.

Driving New Product Development

Hershey’s Kevin Mack, Head of Social Media and Consumer Insights, showed exactly how far things have come in the world of social listening. Mack’s team noticed via social chatter that customers were interested in ever-larger Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and took this insight to the product development team. Hershey, in turn, tested the waters with a half-pound peanut butter cup that was offered on a seasonal basis. Hearing the desire for even larger ones, Hershey then rolled out a pound-sized peanut butter cup that sold out on its website and shortly thereafter went into national distribution.

Becoming a Super Power

At the end of this glittering rainbow of customer centricity is a new and powerful force within organizations. Armed with real-time customer feedback, these frontline representatives of the brand are no longer relegated to the back office; in fact, some now get a seat in the boardroom and are lead by their Chief Customer Officer. Able to fly over tall challenges with a single tweet, and armed with x-ray vision into customer needs and passions, these one-time Clark Kents are fast becoming the supermen and superwomen of their organizations.

For more on this topic, be sure to see Drew’s interview on Social Customer Service with Dell’s Giovanni Tavani and pick up a copy of his new book on Amazon.