Joshua March, CEO, Conversocial: Tips for social media tools buyers
In the latest in our series of articles where IT leaders provide their take on the purchasing process, Conversocial CEO Joshua March shares his tips for those looking to buy social customer service tools.
MyC. What do practitioners need to consider before they start looking for social customer service solutions, to determine their requirements?
JM. Businesses need to ask themselves this question: Are they taking a 'Social First' approach to their customer care? That means, have they recognised social needs to be a key - if not their primary - customer support channel. This approach is absolutely vital. A business - from C-suite downwards - needs to be completely committed to proper investment in the necessary resources to embrace social media as a primary customer service channel.
MyC. What kinds of questions should they ask themselves?
JM. Companies need to have a clear handle on their customer base and their potential customers. Once they have committed to a 'Social First' approach they need to understand the number of customer enquiries they are likely to be dealing with through social and how that volume is likely to develop. In fact, they need to appreciate social is a growing channel and customers are likely to migrate towards social from the more traditional channels.
Companies must to be clear about the investment they need to make in the people they recruit to manage their social support. Taking a piecemeal approach is less effective and in many cases counter-productive.
That investment in support-teams needs to take into account the 'time agnostic' nature of social. A vast amount of social customer care will need to take place outside of normal business hours. This is within the nature of social and its advocates.
It's also important companies committed to a social customer service strategy understand how the customer is likely to approach them. It is common for customers to use more than one method to raise an issue. So, what happens when a customer phones and then tweets to get a reaction? Successful social customer service needs to ensure data is picked up and dealt with across a range of service channels.
MyC. How can buyers convince the CFO that investment in social customer service tools is a wise decision?
JM. If you look at how people are communicating - the direction communication is going on many levels - you can see why a 'Social First' approach is vital. Customers are mobile, they're already comfortable with social and using it on a mobile device. Even more important, they expect mobile communication to get a quick response - they're no longer prepared to wait.
There is overwhelming evidence which demonstrates which direction things are going. Making a decision to invest in social is a natural progression. It is not so much investing in the next generation as investing in the 'now' generation.
There is a huge and growing issue over the trust people have in brands. Brands know this or are finding out to their cost. Customers are no longer prepared to buy products just because brands tell them to. People also lose allegiance to a brand if they feel they are being ignored or not treated as important. Customers are already "Social First" animals. Business cannot afford to ignore this. Social integrity needs to be in-built in the way companies handle their social customer care.
There is a compelling weight of evidence - among businesses of all shapes and sizes - that effective brand advocacy is being build through social. Businesses are also seeing a positive effect on their bottom line through increased revenues and lower customer care costs.
The traditional call center or contact center is becoming less relevant as social becomes more prevalent and the phone less so. No matter how much a business invests in a call center they are unlikely to be able to serve their customer very quickly - or what the customer defines as quickly. Mobile social interaction is faster.
Business risks losing high value customers by dismissing their recourse to social first. They cannot ignore the wide reach an issue raised by a customer on social has. Social is very public. The Firehose factor with Google and Twitter sharing social content means nothing can by brushed under the online carpet. Social will create a lot of 'noise' around and issue and brands need to address it. They can no longer hush it up.
MyC. Are there any particular challenges in the social customer service software market that buyers need to be aware of?
JM. The big challenge is this: What is a business really buying to manage its customer social care. All-in-one social vendors, who generally sell to CMOs, claim they 'do' social service. In reality they have basic engagement platfoms not designed with real contact centers in mind. Conversocial's success and the success of its customers is largely down to the 'joined-up' solution it offers.
MyC. Once practitioners are at the solution selection stage, what advice can you share to help buyers find the most appropriate vendor for their needs?
JM. Social First, Social First and Social First. True adoption of a social customer service solution is not a matter of bolting on different products here and there and it is not about trying to adapt traditional contact center technology or attitudes. Business must choose a vendor focused on social customer service, not someone who's chucked in some basic functionality as part of a bigger suite. Social service is already around 10% of contact volume for some major companies. It is taking over from email and live chat and growing faster than anything else. This will only continue. Any argument that traditional contact with the customer is still growing is wrong. If you are a business which thinks you can hang on to the old and ignore the growing power and effectiveness of social you are misguided and that confidence in old technology is misplaced.
This is a fast growing and rapidly changing market. Choose a vendor who has real relationships with the social networks and a proven record of innovating rapidly from a product perspective. There is no place for a vendor who stands still - the social market is not going to wait around and nor is the social customer.
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Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.