Like it or not, social media has become a mainstream communications channel. What makes it so appealing for consumers is that it’s usually the shortest distance between them and a brand – no account number, security password or wait time required to connect, and it’s especially gratifying for those wishing to vent their frustration.
Even while recognizing social media’s proliferation and its power to alter brand’s perception with a single post, most businesses have not moved to incorporate social media at an enterprise level. Forrester analyst Zach Hofer-Shall says that will change in 2013.
“In 2013, the trend will be about bringing social media into the business itself, not relying on a separate social media function,” notes Hofer-Shall.
Does that mean turf battles over who owns within the enterprise will subside?
“Most companies still tend to believe that social media should be owned by the marketing function, but in 2013, I think we’ll start to hear less talk about who owns it and more about how everyone should be using it,” says Hofer-Shall. It made sense for marketers to take the early reins on social CRM because they have outbound training and skills in pushing out messaging, but to keep companies competitive, customer service teams must also learn social skills.
A New Shared Social Responsibility?
Given the high-profile nature of social communications, struggles over social CRM ownership aren’t particularly surprising. Any time a customer service issue gets aired in the public domain, it immediately becomes a marketing issue, too. “Marketing can’t respond to every tweet or monitor and maintain conversations with every customer,” Hofer-Shall says. “To work, social CRM initiatives need the kind of workflows, business processes, and tools that customer support teams have been using for years.” Service organizations will depend on this coalescence and scalability as use of social media for service grows.
“Departments essentially use the same processes — they monitor feeds and conversations, aggregate content, analyze it to determine relevance and importance, and take action based on their core business function,” says Hofer-Shall. Customer service wants analyzed, aggregated data to develop better support processes, improve agent and self-service knowledge content, and respond to social messages with information or solutions. Meanwhile, PR wants to find out when there’s a crisis so they can manage it. Marketing wants to see where influencers are so they can reach out and track the spread of content, and sales teams want to identify sales leads.
While many organizations expect social CRM to increase self-service through crowd-sourcing and community development, social media will still primarily be used in 2013 as a way to seek assisted service. “In the past, service organizations had the luxury of responding to a query in, say, 24 hours, but that’s no longer acceptable. Now they need to respond very quickly to what the market is looking for, regardless of channel, and that’s forcing them to rethink their strategies,” says Albert Pang, President of Apps Run the World.
“Companies that rely on strong service delivery should make themselves as transparent as possible so customers can be spontaneous in their communications. It’s about delivering the most relevant information to constituents in a seamless way, and not making them jump through hoops,” says Pang. 2013: the year all departments share the responsibility of social media? We’ll see…
Follow the Trends
Read more social customer service predictions, and find out the four additional customer service trends that companies can’t ignore in Parature’s most popular white paper of the year, Service Spotlight: What to Look For in 2013. Click here to access.