Archive for the ‘customer satisfaction’ category

Five Service Technology Things I’m Thankful for This Year

November 24, 2014

Here we are at the holiday season once again. When I was a kid, it seemed that Thanksgiving and Christmas were always a million miles away, but as I get older, time accelerates, and it feels like I just put the tree and decorations away a few weeks ago. This week we all take some time to think about what we are thankful for, and I truly give thanks for my personal and professional existence. But I thought it would be fun to write a post about what I’m thankful for this year as a service technology analyst. Here goes!

  • I’m thankful for new KM insights. This was the first year that I conducted TSIA’s knowledge management survey, and instead of focusing just on metrics like days to publish, I dug into KM potential, culture issues, adoption of emerging technologies, and the “rip and replace” problem. The data was very impactful, and has really informed my research and conversations. Though I cover a lot of technology topics as an analyst, I’m the most passionate about knowledge management tools and processes. It is great to have data-backed talking points about where companies struggle and pacesetter practices for success.
  • I’m thankful for rising PSA adoption and interest. The first few years I was the technology analyst for TSIA’s new professional services practice, it was the easiest job in the world–no one asked me about anything. Boy, has that changed. Today Professional Services Automation (PSA) is my #2 or #3 topic by inquiry volume. I’m seeing PS organizations become more sophisticated in their use of technology, including automated scheduling, analytic-powered dashboards, and automated billing, and core PS metrics like utilization rates and billable utilization are rising as a result.
  • I’m thankful for managed services. In my industry it seems almost politically incorrect to say anything negative about the cloud. But I hear from large enterprises every week who jumped on the cloud bandwagon, usually to save money on a CRM deployment, and are finding the tools are not as sophisticated or feature rich as their legacy solution, and often with abysmal usability. Managed services is rescuing this, offering the sophistication of onpremise technology with none of the ownership headaches or cost. According to George Humphrey, TSIA’s Senior Director of Managed Service Research, “It’s becoming less important to the customer where the product resides. It is becoming crucial to the customer that, whoever sells them the solution, that it is managed. It doesn’t matter if the technology provider is an SI, SP, VAR or the manufacturer selling direct. The expectation from the customer is that it is a fully managed OpEx solutions. The MSPs that are offering this type of solution are seeing explosive revenue growth in MS (many seeing triple digit growth).” For 2015, I expect to see some unhappy cloud customers moving to a managed service platform that better fits their needs.
  • I’m thankful mobility has moved beyond trend into serious business impact. Back in my CRM days, I was the product manager for a WAP CRM product, which I don’t think anyone ever used. The WAP interfaces were so klunky they really didn’t offer huge value for field employees. Early in my Forrester career I wrote a research report about mobile CRM, calling it, “The Next Big Thing That Hasn’t Happened Yet,” because all the vendors were releasing WAP products but no one seemed to be adopting them. The latest round of mobile solutions are a huge improvement, and as a result, we are seeing wide adoption and real business benefits. Here’s a chart with some data from our Field Service benchmark survey, which asks field service organizations what sort of business impacts they have seen from mobile initiatives. The value is clear and documentable, and I’m thrilled to see this “next big thing” is finally having the impact we all envisioned over a decade ago.

FS Mobility

  • I’m thankful NPS is losing some luster. I’ve gotten in trouble over the years because I have never been a fan of net promoter scores. I totally understand the importance of repeat business and referrals, but too many companies asked the “would you recommend us” question once a year, of one person at the account, which in my opinion is a totally useless way to gather real information on customer satisfaction and loyalty. Let’s be honest–many NPS programs are only designed to allow executive bonuses to pay out–not to really measure customer sentiment. Over the last 6 months I’ve heard many companies talk about how shallow their NPS program was, in retrospect. The new focus on customer consumption, customer experience, and now customer effort scores seem to be measuring much more actionable information than a single NPS score.

Wishing each of you a wonderful holiday season. And as always, thanks for reading!

Announcing Finalists for TSIA TechBest in Adoption: Changepoint, LivePerson and Verint Systems

October 8, 2014

TechBest_BIA_Finalist_FA2014

Each Spring I launch the TSIA Member Technology Survey, which tracks adoption, satisfaction, and planned spending across 24 categories of tools and services common within service operations. The survey reveals which solutions are most popular with TSIA members, and it is interesting to find out which vendors see growing adoption. One thing is certain: When the percent of members using a particular solution sharply rises, it indicates that provider has the right messaging, the right tools, and the right price for technology service organizations. Proven success within the TSIA membership means the solution meets the business needs of users, is delivering value, and doesn’t require extensive implementation or customization to be effective.

Comparing the results from 2013 and 2014, the three TSIA partners that saw the largest increase in member adoption are Changepoint, LivePerson and Verint Systems. These three firms represent the finalists in the 2014 TechBEST Best in Adoption Award and will be interviewed in the TechBEST Showcase that opens Technology Services World today in the EXPO Theater. The partner with the highest year-over-year gain in adoption will be named the winner during the opening EXPO on Monday, October 20th.

Changepoint-1

  • Changepoint. Changepoint is the leading global provider of Professional Services Automation (PSA) and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) solutions. The world-class product portfolio offers an unparalleled breadth of PSA and PPM capabilities, meeting diverse market requirements in both functionality and spectrum of delivery methodologies. From the largest and most complex enterprises to small and mid-sized organizations, Changepoint offers robust solutions that are available on-premise, hosted or in a pure SaaS model based on the specific needs of its customers that are located around the world and across industries.

Liveperson-logo

  • LivePerson. LivePerson is the leading provider of live digital engagement solutions for business of all sizes. Through predictive intelligent targeting, LivePerson’s multi-channel platform, LiveEngage,  helps brands understand their site visitors’ intent and value, enabling them to meaningfully connect through the most appropriate type of engagement—including chat, voice, video, and content —and do so across all channels and devices. Through LiveEngage, businesses experience increased sales, improved service levels, while maximizing online marketing efforts. LiveEngage effortlessly manages all online customer interactions, and is simple enough for small business clients while still powerful enough to meet the requirements of our enterprise clients. In addition, LiveEngage is able to learn from every interaction, creating a feedback loop that enriches intelligence and optimizes future engagements, further enhancing business results.

Verint

  • Verint Systems. Verint® is a global leader in Actionable Intelligence® solutions and services. Its customer engagement optimization software and services help organizations optimize their workforces, improve enterprise processes, and enrich customer interactions to make them more engaging, contextual, and personalized while providing employees with information for delivering service more effectively. The Verint solution portfolio brings together proven workforce optimization and customer analytics solutions with advanced customer service capabilities from KANA®, A Verint Company. It includes workforce management, voice recording, voice biometrics, quality monitoring, speech analytics, text analytics, enterprise feedback management, engagement analytics, performance management, desktop and process analytics, elearning and coaching, along with knowledge management and other multichannel customer service solutions. From interactions in contact centers, branch offices, and marketing and customer care to the underlying back-office processes for service delivery, Verint solutions provide visibility into performance, operations, and customer intelligence across the enterprise.

To learn more about these partners, please attend the TechBest Showcase which opens TSW at 12:45PM on Monday, October 20th. Hope to see you there! And as always, thanks for reading!

2014 Mid Year Trends: KM, Social and PSA

June 16, 2014

Just over a month ago we had our Spring Technology Services World Conference in Santa Clara, and any time I wasn’t presenting, I was in 1:1 meetings with TSIA members and partners. I’ve been thinking about what I heard, as well as follow-on inquiry conversations after the event, and I wanted to report back with what I’m hearing as the 3 top trends in service technology so far in 2014:

  • The concept of knowledge management has expanded. It used to be so easy. Buy a knowledgebase tool, train all your support techs on KCS basics, and start receiving value. But lots of things have changed to complicate this. Don’t get me wrong, the knowledgebase continues to be a critical element for success, but today’s service organizations are now seeing the knowledgebase as step one of a more complex knowledge infrastructure. Communities are now rated as more useful in solving customer problems than the knowledgebase, according to the TSIA Support Services benchmark. Unified search tools are becoming a ‘must-have’ technology to index and search all your corporate content, including online documentation, release notes, customer configuration files, and incident history. Expertise management is growing in popularity, to analyze your corporate content and identify experts on any topic or feature, so you know who to reach out to when you hit a knowledge or content gap. Though every company seems to come at this complex mix of technologies from a different direction, just about everyone I talk to today is interested in leveraging corporate content, and expertise, and definitely looking beyond the traditional knowledgebase.
  • Social media listening as early warning system. According to Cisco’s Doug Pluta, customers frequently talk about product or service issues via social media channels before the issue is reported via traditional assisted support channels. My inquiries on social media have completely changed. The last few years the questions were transactional: what social channels should we support, how to automate incident management, how quickly should we respond to social issues, etc. Today, the incident traffic regarding social media is focused primarily on monitoring social for voice of the customer analysis. What are customers saying, what sort of sentiment is being expressed, are there thoughts or suggestions floating around we haven’t heard from traditional surveys, etc. It is good to see more support organizations getting active in social listening, and not leaving it to marketing to monitor. Marketing cares about the perception of the brand more than individual products and features, and there is a lot of value to be gleaned from actively listening to these social conversations.
  • ERP integration boosts PSA value. A lot of members tend to start their search for a professional services automation (PSA) tool by looking at who integrates with their CRM platform. But based on inquiry conversations, as well as audience discussion in the breakout session I did at Santa Clara on selecting a PSA system, tightly integrating PSA to ERP delivers more value, faster, than plugging into CRM. Since tightening up billing cycles and reducing DSO on PS bills is a hot button for most companies, it makes sense to plug your PSA system into your billing and accounting system. Project details, milestones, signature approvals and travel and expenses are all passed automatically, with enough audit trail detail to satisfy even the toughest customer. One member told me that they have received 100% compliance in submitting expense reports and project updates by COB on Friday by tying a percent of the consultant’s bonus to getting those reports in on time. I plan to put more focus on existing ERP systems when speaking with companies shopping for PSA from here on out.

Many other topics are brewing as well. A rising trend in inquiries is asking how to reduce the cost of a CRM deployment, with many companies complaining that their cloud CRM vendor is “nickel and diming them to death,” charging extra for every new feature. Mobility continues to be a hot topic as well, with more field service organizations investigating devices and mobile capabilities. Collaboration is another big subject in 2014, especially with more at-home workers making it impossible to ask questions across the cubicle wall.

2014 is seeing a lot of companies shopping for new and interesting technology to take them to the next stage of productivity, as well as new levels of insight/visibility into operations.  I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on other big trends in service technology. Feel free to add a comment! And as always, thanks for reading.

Announcing the TSIA TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Finalists: Bomgar, Coveo, and DB Kay & Associates

May 5, 2014

Each year TSIA conducts the Global Technology Survey, tracking adoption, satisfaction, and planned spending across 24 categories of technology and services. The satisfaction section of the survey has delivered interesting results, with the majority of categories averaging a satisfaction score well below industry averages. There are, however, some clear outliers from these averages, with some technology or service providers well regarded by TSIA members and highly rated for member satisfaction.

According to the TSIA Support Services Benchmark, customer satisfaction with enterprise software averages 4.3 on a five-point scale (with 1 representing very unsatisfied and 5 representing very satisfied). It is troubling, then, that the satisfaction scores for the 24 categories covered in the TSIA Global Technology Survey range from a low of 3.2 to a high of 3.9—all are well under the industry average of 4.3. However, if you look at individual satisfaction scores by vendor, multiple bright spots emerge. In fact, multiple partners received scores above 4.0, with one partner scoring an average of 4.71. The three partners with the highest satisfaction scores are named finalists in the TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Award. The three finalists are:

  • Bomgar. Bomgar is a leader in enterprise remote support solutions for easily and securely supporting computing systems and mobile devices. The company’s products help organizations improve tech support efficiency and performance by enabling them to securely support nearly any device or system, anywhere in the world—including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and more. More than 8,000 organizations across 65 countries have deployed Bomgar to rapidly improve customer satisfaction while dramatically reducing costs. Bomgar has offices in Jackson, Atlanta, Washington DC, Paris, London, and Singapore. For more information, see www.bomgar.com.
  • Coveo. Coveo helps companies provide more effective customer service by harnessing knowledge and experts from their enterprise knowledge ecosystems. Leveraging powerful unified search and relevance technology, Coveo surfaces relevant enterprise knowledge directly to agents and community members. With Coveo for Salesforce, Service Cloud Edition, related cases, articles, emails, experts, and more are searchable and surfaced in a single view on the Service Cloud console so agents can solve cases efficiently. Coveo for Salesforce, Communities Edition helps improve call deflection and customer satisfaction by automatically displaying content and experts related to topics members are discussing. Coveo is a salesforce.com strategic partner, with customers including Rally Software, Logitech, Deltek, EXFO, Tokyo Electron America, and SunGard. Learn more at www.coveo.com.
  • DB Kay & Associates. DB Kay & Associates, Inc. helps support organizations create customer success and better customer experiences through sustainable knowledge programs. The firm consults and trains to drive best practic-es (such as KCS) and secure executive support, reducing risk and accelerating success. DB Kay leads customer experience mapping exercises to identify and fix customer experience issues. They offer everything from short strategy sessions to hands-on program management. Whatever the engagement, they know they’ve been successful when they’ve transferred knowledge effectively enough that their customers no longer need them! DB Kay customers include Ultimate, Sage, IBM, Carestream, Riverbed, Microsoft, and NetApp. For more information, go to www.dbkay.com.

Today at Technology Services World, I will interviewing the three finalists in the TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Showcase at 12:45pm, immediately following TechFUTURES. Please join us to hear more about these companies, and what they do to ensure satisfaction customers. Thanks for reading, and hope to see you there!

Where to find John at TSW Best Practices

April 30, 2014

Our big spring event, Technology Services World Best Practices, kicks off next week at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The conference begins for me on Sunday with partner advisory board and internal meetings, then we officially open the doors on Monday. I’ve been getting emails asking what I’ll be doing at the conference and where to find me, so wanted to give everyone a look at what I’ll be up to at TSW. Here’s a link to the full conference schedule.

  • Monday 11am-12:30pm. TechFUTURES: The Future of Service Technology. This is the opening event at the conference, and I’m really looking forward to it. I will take the audience 5 years in the future for a look at the impacts of Extreme Efficiency and Extreme Automation, focusing on 3 areas: Analytics, Collaboration, and Service Channels. We will have 3 presenters, from Changepoint, Jive Software and Support.com, each painting their view of 2019. Then the audience votes for who gives the most provocative view of the future. Don’t miss this fun event!
  • Monday 12:45-1:45pm. TechBEST Showcase. My annual global technology survey covers 24 categories of tools and services, with dozens of vendors/providers in each category. One of the things I survey about is satisfaction, and in general, the numbers aren’t that great. However, there are some bright spots with companies receiving extremely high scores. The 3 TSIA partners with the highest satisfaction scores are finalists for the 2014 TechBEST Best in Satisfaction Award. In this showcase, I will unveil the finalists and interview them about how they are able to have such satisfied customers.
  • Monday 3-4pm, Power Hour: The 2014 TSIA Technology Heatmap. In this session, I will reveal the results of my 2014 Global Technology Survey, including adoption, satisfaction and planned spending across 24 categories of tools and services, including analytics, CRM, online communities, web collaboration, PSA, and more. I will also touch on the top technology and social trends I’m seeing.
  • Monday 4:15-5:15, Pacesetter Practices: Social Media for Support. In this session I will talk about the results of my recent Social Media in Support survey, then turn things over to two experts on social support: Doug Pluta, Project Manager, Cisco; and Tim Lopez, Social Media Manager, Symantec. We will talk about the importance of social media both for customer interactions, but also monitoring social conversations as part of a larger voice of the customer strategy.
  • Tuesday 9:45-10:45am. Workout Panel: Key Criteria for Selecting a PSA Solution. Professional Services Automation (PSA) is now one of my top inquiry areas, with PS teams shopping for automation around resource management, project management, and project accounting. I will be moderating a panel of experts on the topic: Al Gray – Vice President, Bentley Systems; Keith Drab – Solutions Architect, Changepoint; and Jeff Gebhart – Senior Solutions Consultant, Planview. A prize will be given for the best audience question, so be sure to attend and participate!
  • Wednesday 11am-12:30pm, Service Revolutions. This is our annual “American Idol” contest for cool technology, with presentations from startups, established tech firms, and some TSIA members, on innovative technologies for streamlining and automating service delivery. I will be doing my best Paul Abdul on the panel of experts, providing pithy comments after each presentation. Live audience voting determines the winners.

I still have a few slots left for 1:1 meetings on Tuesday, so see Susie at the registration desk to book a time to discuss your service technology challenges, or to find out the best Mexican place close to the conference center. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!

Interview with PAB Member Duncan Heal, Managing Director and CEO, MARKETii

April 24, 2014

Over the years I have published interviews with new members of TSIA’s Partner Advisory Board. I had some time this week to chat with one of our newer PAB members, Duncan Heal, Managing Director and CEO for MARKETii, about industry trends around voice of the customer programs. With Duncan’s permission, I’m sharing our conversation with my blog readers. Enjoy!

John Ragsdale: Duncan, thank you so much for agreeing to participate in TSIA’s partner advisory board, and thanks for making time to talk to me today!

Duncan Heal: My pleasure and thank you and TSIA for asking me to be part of the board.

John: Market Intelligence International, or MARKETii, covers a lot of territory related to Voice of the Customer programs. Can you give us a quick overview of your services and programs?

Duncan: Simply put, Marketii and Marketii Medical work with service executives and help them increase customer retention and loyalty so they can grow service revenues and profits. Our customized Voice of the Customer programs help our clients grow faster, sustain business success and improve both top and bottom line revenues by gathering actionable customer insights so they can make the best business decisions. We cover telephone and web surveys as well as mystery calling into help/support desks. We have an enviable position of working in over 25 native languages that helps clients better understand the differences that come from providing service across the globe. It’s then a case of turning all of that feedback into reporting and action items allowing the clients to learn from best practice and the best resource allocation

John: In addition to all these customer facing programs, you also offer a program on employee satisfaction. I’ve seen a lot of survey data that the first step in having happy customers, is making sure you have happy employees. How do you work with your customers on measuring employee satisfaction, and what do you see them do with the data you provide?

Duncan: Great question, John. Our research shows that there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and performance and customer loyalty. Often times companies have to build their VoC efforts “from the inside out” meaning gathering and assessing employee satisfaction data, looking at strengths and weaknesses and then building a VoC initiative for their “outside customers”. Many of our programs include individualized agent performance data that helps service executives look at specific areas of strength and weakness of each agent, whether they be field service, technical support, customer service, professional service, etc…

John: I’ve gotten in trouble a few times for comments I’ve made about Net Promoter. My issue is that companies that only ask one survey question a year, of one account holder at the customer account, are not getting a full view of that customer and their experience. I know you do a lot of Net Promoter work with your customers. Can you comment on how you recommend Net Promoter should fit into the overall satisfaction, loyalty, or VOC program? Or do you think one question a year of one person at the account is enough?

Duncan: No conversation on VoC is complete unless you talk about NPS. Our feeling is that NPS is a great way to begin to assess the loyalty of your customer base but it is not the only way. The nice thing about NPS is that it is easy to understand and provides executives with a standard metric centered on customer loyalty. But as a stand-alone, it is not sufficient. Any holistic VoC program must contain satisfaction questions, must contain Customer Effort/Ease questions, must contain both qualitative and quantitative questions, must contain questions that measure importance vs satisfaction, must contain questions that center on root causes and key drivers of loyalty. Asking one account holder, one NPS question a year, is not enough. A key area to our research here at Market ii is also the understanding of differences in cultural feedback on areas such as NPS as different customers will give different ratings for the same services. We help understand and quantify this through our culture indices reporting

John: MARKETii was a finalist last year for our TechBEST Best in Satisfaction award, for having one of the 3 highest satisfaction scores in my annual technology survey. First of all congratulations for that—with 24 categories of tools and services, and dozens of vendors in each category, being one of the top 3 is a major achievement! How does MARKETii go about making sure your customers are satisfied and receiving value?

Duncan: Thanks John. First of all we ensure we have a great team of Account and Project Managers supporting every client. We then mix in a strong element of pro-activeness that comes from our experiences in running these type of programs and projects. And I think the key element of this and something that we teach to our clients is that the relationship is key to building an understanding of needs, wants, and how the actual client operates so that we can supply the right research at the right time to the right people. We treat them how them in the same way that they should be treating their customers.

John: With TSIA’s focus on B4B and the shift to outcome based services, we are seeing more interest in monitoring customer success. Our definition of customer success includes some sort of consumption monitoring to understand how customers are adopting and using your tools and services, and how much value they are receiving from the tools and services. My recent 2014 Technology Survey found that only 14% of our members are currently using any sort of technology for consumption monitoring and analytics. Are you seeing any interest in this topic from your customers? Does MARKETii see consumption monitoring as part of a strategy to improve satisfaction and loyalty?

Duncan: To answer your first question, yes, we are seeing this come up. We have developed some tools that allow clients to understand the customer importance and usage of some of their services balanced against the cost/time/risk and effort from the clients perspective in providing these services. When you take into account the successful, or unsuccessful customer interaction then our Strategic Priority Analysis helps the client fully understand where they need to concentrate their efforts and to understand what is successful.

This does lead well into the 2nd question you asked John in that by companies better understanding the way they deliver the services and the impact it has on customer satisfaction and loyalty then these companies are in a better position to adapt their services quicker and have more consumption based services. A good example is the way that companies are looking to Marketii for more subscription based and adaptable services for monitoring their customer satisfaction purely because they are adapting, improving and changing their own offerings.

John: I’ve started receiving more inquiries just recently about monitoring social media channels to help identify key influencers of your brand, and to better measure customer sentiment and identify areas for improvement. How important is social media monitoring to your customers, and is this a growing area of interest?

Duncan: John, it certainly is becoming more important . I think the users and customers in B2B or should I say B4B markets and organisations are a bit different to the B2C customers in their use of social media in terms of influencers of a brand. What I mean is that a consumer buyer being much more likely to tweet about their experiences of, say, a restaurant or some new clothes, than that of a consumer of IT systems or CRM tools. That is not to say it isn’t growing, but it is done in different ways.

Market ii and Market ii Medical carry out research into the “tipping points” or “tolerance levels” of customers at which they will go onto social media and write about the brand or issue. This is done to gain a much better understanding of the combination of when that is, and what is the caused. Companies are then able to prevent the issues from occurring and understand the customer issues better before they start to move to social media to potentially damage the brand.

Thinking about what you said about sentiment analysis, this can be looked at in two ways. One, there is the overall sentiment in the feedback from customers that we turn into dashboard reporting, thus giving a view of customer satisfaction levels leaning one way or the other. The real nuggets of information come in the coding of open narrative to assess areas of improvement and importance. We work really hard to ensure that when looking at as an example a pie chart of what area to improve upon you don’t see a large pie slice saying “other”. That is no good to the client. The better coding and analysis of the narrative gives the client a complete picture of where to concentrate their efforts and doubly so by being able to understand if those things that need improving or maintaining are of importance to the customer.

John: I know you work with a lot of different industries, including a new MARKETii Medical division. It seems the stakes can be pretty high in understanding issues with customers in the healthcare and med tech industries. What are some of the unique challenges these companies are dealing with?

Duncan: First, we are very excited to announce our new division, Marketii Medical. We saw a distinct need in the medical device marketplace for a Customer Experience company who was strictly focused on helping medical device companies build customer loyalty. Medical devices is a very competitive market place. There are new players coming into the market on what seems like a daily basis. What we are finding is that the vast majority of companies are seeing that service excellence and not product is driving customer loyalty and profitability. Also, service costs for medical device companies are among the highest in the industry, so it is critically important to measure and track satisfaction with service provided to help keep these costs down. Evans Manolis is the President of Marketii Medical and he brings with him over 16 years of experience and has worked with over 100 medical device companies during that time.

John: Duncan, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today! Look forward to seeing you in Santa Clara for TSW!

Duncan: Thank you John, good to talk with you and look forward to catching up in a couple of weeks. Take care.

Thanks everyone for reading! You can meet Duncan and learn more about MARKETii at our Technology Services World Conference kicking off May 5th at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Hope to see you there!

 

Doing a poor job on social media support is worse than not supporting social at all

March 19, 2013

I’ll probably catch a lot of flack for this column title, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it. I just finished reading an article in today’s San Jose Mercury News about a study done by cloud vendor LiveOps about social media support, claiming that 70% of customer complaints on Twitter and Facebook are ignored; the average response time for Facebook questions is 2 days (opposed to 2 hours, which is the customer expectation), and that more than a third of companies have deleted a customer question from their Facebook page they didn’t want to answer.

Unlike phone calls and emails, social media support is very public. I always say that opening up a new customer interaction channel is like blowing a hole in the side of your corporate office. You now have a big gaping hole for customers and information to flow in and out, and if you don’t police that hole, including audit trails for traffic in and out, and service level agreements for who can use the hole and how quickly you must respond, you will get in big trouble.

Thousands of companies put very little thought into the decision to begin supporting customers via Twitter or Facebook, and I suspect many now regret it. Once that hole in the side of the company is open, it is all but impossible to close. And it is incredibly visible when you can’t keep up with the volume and begin ignoring–or deleting–customer questions.

Based on lots of TSIA data, it is clear that online communities/discussion forums are hugely successful for technical support–or at least have the potential for being hugely successful. But on the B2B technical support side, I remain unconvinced about social media channels. The typical use case for Twitter support is, “I called Comcast and was told there was an hour wait for an agent, so I Tweeted instead.” I don’t think any TSIA members have an hour wait for a phone agent. Ever. In the B2B, i.e., enterprise support world, in which you pay a very large fee for access to technical support, you don’t have long wait times. In fact, dedicated account reps are common for premium support. And the bottom line is, if a system administrator Tweets or Facebooks that their corporate ERP or supply chain system is down, that is not reporting a tech support issue, that is airing your company’s dirty laundry and a fireable offense.

There is also something in the article I laughed at. According to the survey, “customers are likely to spend about 30 percent more money” if the company has a social media presence. Well, I review RFPs all the time, and I’ve never seen a B2B purchase decision based on which vendor has the most Twitter traffic. It galls me that news outlets refuse to differentiate between B2B and B2C when they write things like this, and some wrong-headed B2B manager is going to bring this article into his boss and say, “Let’s start social media support and we’ll raise sales 30%.”

So, before you decide to begin supporting customers with technical issues via Twitter or Facebook, please remember:

  • Only a very small slice of traffic will have anything to do with a technical support issue. Most traffic will be about your latest commercial, your stock price, your CEO’s private life, the color of your company logo, etc. Technical support engineers are not equipped to handle these questions, and it is a waste of their time. But, if you are going to support the general public via a social channel, you need a strategy for these non-technical issues. If you don’t have an outbound marketing or PR group staffed to handle these posts, which will probably be 90% of traffic, don’t open the channel to begin with.
  • If you do insist on supporting customers via social channels, please leverage one of the many knowledge platforms now offering plugins to social media. For example, you can create a tab on your Facebook page that allows searching your self-service knowledgebase and shows lists of FAQs.
  • Record every interaction in CRM..or someplace. You need an accurate history of which customer asked which question, regardless of channel, and you need to understand which questions are asked and answered by all channels to make sure knowledgebases are current and accurate.
  • Establish SLAs. If you are going to support a new channel, whether it is social or not, you have to establish response times for the channel. And you must have staff dedicated to meet those SLAs. I’m not saying you necessarily publish the SLAs (“All Facebook posts will be answered within 2 hours”), but internally, you must have some SLA guidelines and the ability to measure how well you are doing in meeting those SLAs. Customers have expectations, and if you can’t meet them, you shouldn’t launch the channel.

And as always, thanks for reading!