Addressing The Social Media ‘support Gap’

The a growing sense that amount of serious attention—and dollars—companies commit to social media is grossly inadequate when compared to the amount of time customer, prospects, and influencers spend using social media. This deficiency in social media spending is a topic most often broached by marketers. For example, Ogilvy articulates the problem by highlighting what it calls the “Marketing Confidence Gap” (see the chart after the break). The graphic reflects the fact that marketing spend on social media channels lags far behind customer attention to social media.

But a much bigger gap exists, often unnoticed by companies: The amount of money contact centers and support organizations spend on social media is nominal compared to the percentage of customers’ queries that hit these emerging channels. This is the “support gap.”

Social media has become a new service and support channel that customers employ to raise concerns about products and services, describe their experiences, seek help from others, post new product insights, and consult for advice on features and functions. For companies, this is not trivial. It means that conversations about your products that would traditionally have occurred in your customer contact center are now occurring in public places. The Consortium for Service Innovation estimates that fully 90% of customer conversations about a company never touch the organization. What’s more, a mere 1% of all customer conversations are assimilated as organizational knowledge.

nGenera’s own Customer Interaction Management solution recently added social media support for its contact center product, but many companies have yet to consider this option. In most cases, if a social media strategy is being implemented by the support organization, it’s on an ad hoc basis with a few employees manually monitoring Twitter and branded Web spaces and responding to customers where appropriate. These interactions, though helpful, are not strategic in that they are not integrated with enterprise systems or contact center processes. Building processes and accountability around these activities is the first step that companies can take today—connecting to CRM systems in a robust and meaningful way will be the next horizon.

The plight of marketing and the plight of the support organization are linked and the two organizations need to work together, using shared information, on a common platform. Traditionally, marketing has been about communicating brand messaging, while the customer service department deals with problems and complaints. But a customer that you’ve engaged through social media for marketing purposes doesn’t see the separation – and customer service is becoming a key aspect of managing customer relationships online (I’ve talked before about how “customer service is the new marketing“). This is not trivial. It means matching the tremendous amount of time and energy spent on other official support channels such as e-mail and phone in order to meet customer expectations for social media and deliver a consistent and authentic customer experience. Those companies that think social media is just a cost-effective way to get the message out are in for a surprise. By marketing on social media you inadvertently open a new support channel as well—get ready!

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Naumi Haque has more than a decade of experience in the research and advisory industry. Naumi has been at the forefront of customer experience management, recently arguing that enterprises need an integrated customer experience strategy to meet customer expectations. He has conducted research and provided thought leadership on a wide variety of topics related to emerging technology and business innovation, including: social media strategy, customer experience, next generation marketing, enterprise collaboration, open innovation, digital identity, new sources of enterprise data, and disruptive web-enabled business models. He received his MBA and his Honors in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business.