Growing with Social Networks and “The Service Cloud”

by Maria Pergolino on March 23, 2009

We are in the toddler years of what is happening with brands interacting with customers and prospects in social networks. In its infancy, companies were using RSS feeds to move data between websites and social networking sites to reach as large an audience as possible with minimal effort. Content was simply repurposed and available for consumption outside the core website.  All content was approved by marketing and felt ‘controlled.’

Now, as social network popularity is growing, customers and prospects have asked companies for more personal interactions on these sites. Because of this, we started seeing organizations make social network interactions directly by creating advocates for their brand to serve as representatives on these sites, the most well known of these being @comcastcares.

But, as social networks grow, it is becoming increasingly hard to have someone monitor each of these sites to interact. This becomes a larger struggle for B2B or technical companies, whose customers may be having conversations in less utilized social networks, like product or industry specific groups. Recently I tried to compile a list of places where people were having conversations about HP’s testing product, HP Loadrunner. I found hundreds of sites where people were talking, including wikis, user blogs, groups, social networks, etc. For a brand like HP, a team would be needed just to monitor all these sites and even more needed to respond to each question and request. And this for only one of their products.

In addition, it has been difficult for marketers to manage these social interactions, since often the conversations require more than their expertise, and a service or support representatives is required for a technical response. At many companies, Marketing has panicked, uncomfortable with service representatives searching the web to have conversations that may not represent ‘the brand’ or that may reflect poorly on the organization, especially since the conversations are hard to track. Also, because these conversations have happened outside of the service system, it has been hard to quantify the level of attention that is needed for these conversations to ensure the company is interacting enough.

The solution to this is the development of products that will harvest these conversations and bring them into a system where support can monitor, respond, and track these conversations. This is also a good solution for marketing, as they can see the interactions service is having.

As we move out of the toddler years, we are going to see is a shift from Marketing using products like Radian 6 and news alert products to track social media interactions with their brand to products that are built directly into the CRM systems. We are also going to see service helping customers directly in the CRM. This will not only allow the interactions to be measureable, but for it to be combined with current customer records, for the requests to be merged with requests from formal support channels, and for support to leverage preexisting knowledge bases when replying to these questions. Today we saw the most robust of these product launched by Salesforce called Service Cloud.

This means that a micro-blogging site like Twitter or social network like Facebook can plug into your CRM via multiple add-ins and mashups in multiple places viewable by different users of the CRM. Your marketing team may use the CRM to integrate directly with these sites to place PPC ads and monitor trends. Sales will pull data and news on specific prospects when making sales calls. Support will then tap into these same social networks to resolve support cases and answer product questions. All viewable 24 hours a day, via a desktop, laptop, or mobile device without searching networks, websites, or blogs.

Because all of this will happen inside the same CRM system everything will be measurable. Instead of seeing a decline in the amount of data available because it is happening off the website or outside our front doors, we will see an increase, with new metrics being created and more information collected on each customer. Marketing will be able to run reports on which social networks their customers prefer and will be able to place advertising dollars and run lead generation programs on these sites inside the CRM. Lead scoring will be able to be done on behavior outside the website. Support will know how customers prefer their responses and will be able to deliver solutions in these places. They will also be able to monitor conversations others are having about their product and interact at various points of the conversation when appropriate. Sales will be able to see a picture of the person they are speaking with and read news and blog/micro-blog posts done by that person to better understand pain points to shorten the selling process . Product management will be able to scan support logs captured from social sites to find defects or product upgrade requests.

All of this is happening fast. And It is important for organizations to adjust quickly. Just as the move from the toddler is happening now, the social networks will continue to mature, and marketers will have to grow through this change with them.

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