Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Service in the Age of Social Support

June 15, 2017
By Special Guest
Daniel Foppen, Senior Principal Product Manager, Oracle Service Cloud -

In the last decade, consumers have increasingly sought out social platforms as channels to both engage with brands and to consult with their highly-connected peers about a brand’s products and services.

Social Messaging Platforms

Consumers are spending unprecedented amounts of time on social networks and social messaging platforms. Together, the three biggest messenger apps–Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat–have close to three billion active users, a number equivalent to half of the world’s population. The adoption rate is staggering, and brands need to follow suit.

The opportunity for brands is their ability to adopt these social platforms as service pathways, and provide a more intimate and efficient customer experience than what is possible through traditional channels such as the telephone, email, or even live chat.

      Daniel Foppen 

Social channels allow consumers the opportunity to have a conversation with a brand in an environment where they are already spending a good part of their day. Instead of searching for a phone number on a website, consumers can simply start a conversation thread with a business using Facebook Messenger, for example, or continue a conversation they’ve had in the past. This interaction is on their own terms, and they are free to go about their day until further action is required. Unlike the phone, the consumer doesn’t wait in a queue, they don’t navigate an IVR menu, and department transfers are seamless.

Once connected with an agent, messaging platforms allow for the exchange of rich information like images, video, sound and text. A customer can easily upload a photo that illustrates faulty packaging, or a video that shows blinking lights on an internet router, enabling service agents to more efficiently diagnose an issue.

By including these pathways for service, a company is already offering a better, and differentiated experience. But they need to go one step further and empower their agents to provide consistent customer experiences.

Whereas telephone, email, and chat channels have always been under the control of the business’ IT department, social channels are full platforms with billions of users that are not under a business’ control, they offer no guarantee of continuity (SLAs), and can’t easily be nudged to implement a new feature. Furthermore, consumers expect brands to offer the same level of service on social channels as they do with traditional channels, 24/7.

In order to efficiently embrace a social service strategy, businesses must give agents the proper tools to solve customer problems. By incorporating evolving channels alongside traditional ones, instead of on disparate platforms, service agents will have full access to context such as interaction history (across all channels), customer profiles, purchase history, records, and so on.

Agents should be able to handle all types of service inquiries and offer the same level of connected service as they would on traditional channels. If a business’ contact center is not set up to offer the same service quality and breadth on social platforms as it does with traditional channels, it should wait to adopt that strategy to avoid customer frustrations.

Community Self-Service

More than ever, digitally-connected consumers are looking to their peers to find answers to questions. Oftentimes, customers can post this information faster than a company can, offering up trustworthy answers that draw from their own experience with a product or service.

Companies can leverage these engagements–tapping into customer expertise to solve service inquires–by fostering an integrated community as part of its digital customer service strategy. Community self-service is, at its essence, peer-to-peer support or a social knowledge platform.

It’s advisable to incorporate social knowledge seamlessly with curated knowledge, not on separate destinations. In doing so, businesses deflect contact center inquires and reduce costs, all while offering timely, trustworthy, and appropriate information to their customers. Lastly, by giving incentives and public recognition to engaged community experts, companies foster loyalty and brand champions among their customer base. Social self-service is a win-win for the company and the consumer.

Meeting the Demand for Social Service

Western Digital, one of the world’s top brands for memory storage solutions, has adopted an award-winning, omni-channel customer service strategy that stretches across four brands, several globally-located contact centers, and 16 different languages. Senior Director of Global Customer Support, Urvashi Sheth, derives Western Digital’s success from its ability to “offer the experience that its customers deserve. Not every customer wants to talk to us on the phone, some want to talk to us on SMS, another person wants to talk on chat, and we are able to offer a variety of service channels.” Next on their list? “We are looking at WeChat in China,” to meet the growing demand of social service among this audience.

“Do not just have one channel or one way of offering service, Sheth concludes, “make it what the customer needs, not what is easiest for you.”