Very few times in human history have we witnessed an inflection point in technology that fundamentally changes the way we live and work. Invention of electricity, telephone, TV & radio, computers and most recently, the internet are few examples of transformative powers of technology. Just imagine life without electricity, TV & Radio or internet. We can’t live without these technological wonders even for few hours, let alone few days! Such is their influence on how we live and work. Social Networking technology is one such inflection point in history of human evolution and we are in midst of a Social Media revolution that will fundamentally change how we live, work and play.
In this post, I want to discuss how Social Networking technology and Social Media tools are transforming customer support function. For many decades, marketers have been providing service to their customers over phone, and over email/chat after spread of internet. Both, phone and email/chat are private and one-to-one in nature. For any support, customers have to call a phone number (normally a 1-800 toll-free number here in the US) and wait for a Customer Support agent to answer the phone and resolve any issues or provide any necessary help. During the whole support process, marketers are in total control of the interaction to the extent that agents use “scripts” or pre-defined workflow during most customer support calls. This also highlights the fact that customer support personnel are just working as “agents” and are not really empowered to solve customers’ problem and have to adhere to their scripts during the call. How many times have we heard the phrase “sorry, my system won’t allow me to do that” in response to a request during a support call.
I am happy to note that thanks to rapid expansion of reach and effectiveness of Social Media channels, this is about to change. Social Media have empowered customers like never before as they can express their opinions/feelings about brands on Social Media channels, including commenting about poor customer service or wait times for some one to answer customer service calls. Marketers have no control over what customers are saying about their brands or poor service. Given this scenario, best strategy for a business is to engage customers on Social Media channels if customers prefer that option, especially when wait time for phone, email or web based support is too long for the customers.
As more and more customers air their grievances on social media channels, it is important for marketers to engage them and not wait for them to call customer support phone numbers. Social Networking technology provides great tools for “engaging” customers. Unlike traditional media channels, Social media communication is not only two-way, one-to-one, but customer is an active participant and “owns” the conversation.
Moreover, conversations over Social Media channels are public – visible to all. And customers and potential customers are discussing about products and brands on Social Media channels, including poor customer support whether the marketer is participating in the discussion or not. This is why it is utmost important for marketer to have a Social CRM strategy and invest in Social Media tools for effectively engaging customers and prospects. Gone are the days of “scripted” customer support calls.
Level of customer engagement will determine mind-share and market-share for a brand. Those marketers who effectively engage their customers and prospects will emerge as winners and those who are not good in customer engagement will lose market share.
What do you think? Is it time for Customer Support to move over and Customer Engagement to take its place? Please do share your thoughts on the implications for business.