To go social or not to go social is no longer the question or even an option. Today it is difficult to continue building a strong brand and staying connected with your customers without using the glamorous, cool and hip social media tools. One of my first experiences as a community manager was within a technical support department that was hoping to use the community to deflect cases amongst a number of other objectives.
I was responsible for monitoring a question and answer section of the community. The first goal was to make sure each answer received a response. It was important to my organization that the people participating in the community felt that their voices were heard and acknowledged, that they received a suggestion to resolve their issue or to be pointed to the right resources.
The next goal was to utilize the interaction in the community for case deflection purposes. The theory was that if one person has a question on a particular topic, chances are there are others who do too and answering it for one person would mean answering it for a number of other participants. If a question was repeated, referring them to a previous post would allow for an opportunity to show them how to utilize the community on their own to get the answers that they need. The concept of teaching them how to fish as opposed to catching a fish for them would also make them more self-sufficient in a long run and keep coming back to the community.
In addition to improving the user experience, there is always hope that investment in social infrastructure would result in benefits to the organization in form of reducing costs in other areas, such as support. In the early days, a simplistic approach was used when evaluating the value of activities in communities. There is an average cost associated with each case submitted by a customer, and if a community manager answers twenty questions in the community in one day, to calculate the cost savings the cost of a case was multiplied by a number of posts; and of course there was some percentage of people who would then not post a question or submit a case because the information was already posted to the community. Some tweaking to this formula could give a good indication of what the cost savings are and the number of cases that were deflected if you are only utilizing one or two social media channels.
Calculating actual returns or cost savings of resolving customer issues via multiple social channels, in addition to addressing any items going viral, can prove to be a much more complex formula that might not even bring a favourable result. I very much believed that my participation in the community was helping deflect cases but this podcast by Jay Baer made me question my theory. He brought up some great points contradicting my theory:
“What happens today is somebody calls and they didn’t like the answer, so now they tweet. Or they email and it takes you too long to respond to the email, so they go to Facebook or they post on a forum. And so, what used to be one customer contact, now becomes two, three, four, because channels proliferate and consumers will keep selecting different channels until they get the answer they want to hear. You don’t see call deflection. You just see call accumulation.” -@jaybaer
I did encounter some of this also, where people would post an inquiry on a number of different groups, and also submit cases with the same topic, which meant we were duplicating efforts and sometimes not delivering consistent messaging.
Collaborating with your customers and prospects via social media channels is absolutely necessary to compete, but to get ahead of the competition it has to be done in a meaningful way that brings value to the customer first and hopefully helps organizations stay competitive. In other words, be social for the right reasons. What are your thoughts? Have you been able to find the fine balance of keeping lean while providing value to your customers?