Don’t Just Dream about Better Social Service, Dreamforce it!

Ashley Furness – The biggest cloud computing industry event of the year has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn something from it.

Dreamforce 2012 ended late last month with a record 90,000 attendees, media and learning session participants. The gathering featured more than 750 sessions, but that’s not where I picked up some of the most practical business tips. Those came from the live “Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center” – a real-life demonstration of social customer service savvy.

Dreamforce tabletSituated in the middle of the expo floor, the social service station was manned by eight support agents who fielded calls, tweets, posts and updates from Dreamforce attendees. The site was ringed by flashing streams of social conversations. These stock exchange-like tickers provided onlookers a peak into their activities.

From watching and learning, I gleaned a few key takeaways. For those of you that weren’t able to attend, or missed this demonstration, here’s several socialized customer service best practices I observed.

Post Publicly First

John Rote, Vice President of Customer Experience at Bonobos, compared support through social media like troubleshooting in a coffee shop or bar.

“It’s likely more people will hear about it and pull friends from across the room to listen. This can mean a bad experience is shared further, faster,” says Rote, who will sit on a social customer service panel at Dreamforce called “How Small Businesses Keep Up with the Velocity of Customer Service.”

To mitigate this risk, Rote suggests companies always acknowledge the comment in social before taking the interaction to another channel. Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center observers watched this happen in real time. If an attendee asked a highly-technical question on Twitter, the agent would reply, “I’m emailing you now!” or “Here’s a link to a Chatter discussion on this topic.”

This approach publicly demonstrates that the company is listening and responds to everyone.

Prioritize Thoughtfully

One of the biggest challenges with providing customer service through social is dealing with the sheer volume of requests. Griffin said companies should have a well-defined strategy for prioritizing responses.

This should include ranking factors from social–a Klout score, for example–and customer history. A company might choose to respond first to longtime customers or those with a history of high-value purchases.

“Companies should strike a balance between who [the customer] is in the community, but also who they are to you,” Griffin says.

At the Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center, social mention identification and prioritization was automated through Salesforce.com’s Radian6 Social Hub. This system trolled the Web for #Dreamforce, @Dreamforce and Dreamforce mentions on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. These were instantly turned into a service ticket, prioritized and routed to the appropriate social response agent.

Hashtag Common Questions

Griffin told me that last year during Dreamforce most interactions across all service channels involved questions about where things were located, recommendations for events, and tips for getting around the conference. Hashtags allow customer service managers to instantly create a knowledge base for topics such as these.

During this year’s event, Salesforce Service Cloud Call Center agents used hashtags like #Dreamforc2012, #DF2012 and #DF12 to index conversations about the event. That way they could quickly reference those tweets for relevant questions.

Then, when a Dreamforce visitor tweeted, “What sessions are best for social customer service?” the agent could respond “@UserName check out everyone’s food recommendations by searching #Dreamforce2012! and #socialcustserv” When they search those hashtags, the visitor could scan through everyone’s suggestions. This saves the agent time, while still providing a helpful personal response.

It Takes Dedication

John Rote, Vice President of Customer Experience at Bonobos, compared support through social media like troubleshooting in a coffee shop or bar.

“It’s likely more people will hear about it and pull friends from across the room to listen. This can mean a bad experience is shared further, faster,” says Rote, who will sat on a social customer service panel at Dreamforce called “How Small Businesses Keep Up with the Velocity of Customer Service.”

Customer service through social media is not just about providing another interaction channel in addition to phone, email or live chat. Bonobos found out through customer surveys that social media support engaged customers who might never have sent their question otherwise. But for this to really work, you need to make sure you have both the processes and manpower for providing a good social experience.

Ashley Furness is a CRM Software Analyst for research firm Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising.

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