4 Important Insights Regarding Social Customer Service From 2015

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

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2015 has come and gone: working with our customers we’ve gained insight into many things about the state of social along the way. But before we share those insights, let’s quickly reflect.


The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, offered the following at his 1995 MIT commencement address:


“I had (and still have) a dream that the web could be less of a television channel and more of an interactive sea of shared knowledge. I imagine it immersing us as a warm, friendly environment made of the things we and our friends have seen, heard, believe or have figured out.”


It’s impressive to think that 20 years ago, the inventor of the World Wide Web was referring to the importance of building communities on the Internet -- what many businesses are doing today. We are creating a space where customers and those interested in becoming customers can come together, ask questions, share feedback, and help develop better solutions to life’s little challenges.


So what are the key insights for social customer service from 2015? As a critical mass of our customers embraced Lithium’s Total Community philosophy, there was a collective realization that adopting social technology at a strategic level requires re-thinking how businesses are structured.


Consider these 4 points:


  1. When it comes to support, Operations has the ball.


The long-standing rule that peer-based support communities typically live within the domain of customer care still applies. This has been the rule for quite some time, but really hit home as more Lithium powered communities chose to integrate Lithium Social Web to advance their Total Community strategy.


Through many of these integrations, we found that Lithium Social Web is becoming the foundational glue that holds a powerful customer engagement strategy together in a Total Community. How does customer engagement differ from support? That brings us to our next point…


  1. When it comes to customer engagement, Marketing owns the budget.


Marketing still controls the budget for customer engagement, in particular when the definition of “engagement” is taken to mean, “engaging with content provided by the brand for marketplace consumption.”


It’s a fact that customers and potential customers are less likely to trust brands, and much more likely to trust peer recommendations from those like themselves. Customers decide how, when, and where they will initiate their own communications with the brand (and with each other, about the brand and what it means to them).


In 2015 it became increasingly evident that within an organization, the Marketing team decides how the brand chooses to initiate customer dialogue: the customer has a primary stake in determining what that solution looks like, and therefore plays a central role in the selection of the critical components of social technology. In short, build for where your customers are going, to paraphrase hockey-great Wayne Gretsky.


  1. It’s impossible to create consistently great customer experiences in silos.


Perhaps the biggest insight of 2015 is this: it takes a village. Of all the challenges that businesses faced when moving to adopt a holistic Total Community approach, the nearly universal learning was that success was dependent on the entire organization being involved and taking responsibility for at least some part of the customer experience.


It is impossible to create consistently great customer experiences when teams are working in silos. Operations and Marketing must work together to achieve this, and they need to get the rest of the organization involved as well.


  1. Activate your entire organization by tapping retained knowledge to create better solutions.


Let’s paint a picture of what 2015 looked like for an average Lithium customer:


The Operations team sees an opportunity to achieve scalability and cost reduction with enterprise grade social technology. Lithium Community powers nearly 500 global brands, producing documented cost savings. Operations and Marketing, seeing the need for scale in off-domain (for example, Twitter) customer engagement, combine community with Klout, the leading source of quality influencer data, and with Lithium Social Web, the de facto standard for big-brand, high-scale customer engagement. Combined with Lithium’s community software the result is a comprehensive platform that enables brands to involve customers in the creation of solutions. Building on this, it allows brands to tap those solutions in order to scale up to the growing demand for timely, accurate off-domain social support.


Building on this core platform, Lithium rolled out advanced analytics, including Shared Dashboards and Monitor Walls in 2015. The result was the newfound ability to syndicate customer engagement data across the organization. Suddenly, domain knowledge that had been locked away in the heads of employees was available: it’s a fact that, on average, business tap only about 40% of the knowledge actually possessed, and over 67% of employees feel underutilized.


Enter LSW Experts. With the core platform in place—Lithium Community (peer engagement), Lithium Social Web (off-channel engagement and peer solution integration) combined with Klout (influencer data)—Lithium’s analytics tools allow firms to visibly present customer interactions—the good the bad, and the ugly—broadly across the organization. Like sleeping giants, the expert holders of specific domain expertise within an organization came forward. “I didn’t know customers felt like that” and “I can help with that!” are common reactions when social data is presented to employees. Beyond the eye-candy of social media command centers from ten years ago—trend charts, cool-but-nonessential world maps and the like—the ability to offer highly specific Smart Views of discrete data can be an incredibly powerful factor in building an experts-based social engagement team to complement your social customer care front-line.


To summarize:


  • Marketing and Operations need combined, strategic platforms that power business; they must work together to achieve consistently great experiences.
  • Customer care is better when customers are directly involved (OK, we all knew that already…) and able to connect with super-users and experts and generate solutions that can then be provided through off-domain social channel engagement.
  • Finally, the really big insight was that our customers are serious about activating their entire organization, by tapping retained (but heretofore trapped) knowledge to create better solutions, to spot and convert early-stage buying opportunities, and spur customer-driven innovation.


What did you learn in 2015? Please share in the comments below.


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