This is an interview with Steven Degelaen, Online Conversation Manager at Telenet – a Belgian telecommunications provider. Steven is a regular speaker at our events and will a speaker at Social CRM 2013 in Brussels.
What does social customer service mean to you in your current role?
Social customer care is the logical evolution of customer care as we have known it for decades. Consumers adopt new media, they explore and use them for their personal enrichment, but they also use it to reach out to companies and organisations because they like the convenience.
For the early adopters, it has become just another channel (and in some cases the preferred channel) to get in touch with companies they want to interact with. They see social as a viable alternative for a call or an email, and expect the same (or better) response times. The mass audience is seeing it less and less as a niche contact medium, and starting to understand the benefits from social media and other online channels.
The goal from my perspective is to identify and meet the needs and requirements from a growing group of consumers (both customer and non-customers). To let this unfiltered voice of the customer be heard within the company and to adapt to the customer care organisation in a scalable way so that we can service an increasing volumes of requests economically.
What are the biggest social customer service challenges that your organisation faces?
The volume of social interactions is definitely a challenge. Economically it is not an option to scale for the peak times (both expected and unexpected), so to keep SLAs and KPIs under control is difficult at times. The collaboration with other departments is a learning process as well. Targets are not always aligned, and it takes constant and careful syncing of processes to keep everyone facing in the same direction, and also keep all parties informed at all times about campaigns, trends and future developments.
The ROI of social and social care in particular is still a hot topic, and all calculations and metrics have their values, but what it comes down to is really nothing more than the answer to this question: Is your company ready to listen, respond and analyse what customers are saying? If the answer is yes, you need to invest in social care, as this is where your customers are, this is where they ask questions, this is where they provide feedback and this is where you can learn so much about their wishes and needs. We firmly believe that we have to follow the customer wherever he/she is, and now, a lot of them are on social media, talking about and expecting a response from your company.
How are you approaching these challenges?
The ever-increasing volume of mentions has allowed us to more than double our social customer care team. Over the past few months we faced some challenges to meet a reasonable SLA towards our customers and to really show off the value of social customer care. We think that with this substantial investment from our side, we are ready to respond faster and also to extend our social care business hours. The goal is to align these opening hours as much as possible with the other care channels to provide customers with a real alternative to the traditional contact methods and to bring them closer to the timeframes during which customers use our products.
The collaboration with other departments is being streamlined further and the setup of a content agenda, fed by all parties that are involved (Digital Marketing, Customer Care, Corporate Communication) is a huge step forward. It provides an overview of the incoming and outgoing flows and communications, it allows forecasting and avoids conflicts and over-communication, especially in rather large organisations like Telenet.
What lessons have you learned so far?
Social media, and social care by extension are rather new, and not an exact science. When you try to innovate and stay up-to-speed with or ahead of the competition, you need to work with trial and error on certain domains. This in turn needs management backup to keep trying to improve processes and procedures with one ultimate goal: provide excellent service and products to customers. Allowing yourself to fail (with the best intentions) is a step forward and not a step backwards.
It’s also a rather difficult task to marry a 24/7 social world with a more traditional business environment. Rules and regulations, working hours, employee discretion and confidentiality, transparency and openness are all aspects that come under pressure/stress when they are to be combined with an online, social world that is 24/7, open and accessible to all. Companies need to understand the social ecosystem and find a way to integrate it into their own and their employees new way of working, this change is not to be underestimated at all.
When will you know that you’ve succeeded?
One day’s #epicwin is another day’s #epicfail. A lot of these challenges are continuous and since the outside (online) world changes all the time, the company present in this environment needs to adapt constantly. To think that you have succeeded because of an award, a viral campaign gone wild or a super SLA/KPI-result would be foolish, as there are new awards, viral campaigns and KPIs just around the corner that shadow any success in the past.
The main factor of success is to build an attitude change within the company and to make sure the organisation is ready for constant change as well. Building a solid social customer service team, measuring success in a industry-standard manner and integrating social feedback and requests into the company’s own processes, services and products is just the start.
You can hear more from Steven and speakers from TNS NIPO, LinkedIn and European Parliament at Social CRM Brussels, 26-27 November 2013. Register here.