Last October 22 – 23rd, New York City played host to the “Social Media for Customer Service Summit” where lots of powerful brands (MasterCard, FedEx, Best Buy, T-Mobile, Comcast, Zappos, McDonald’s and many others) joined to share useful and interesting best practices in the social customer service field.
The main topics covered during the two-day conference dealt mainly with customer service strategy evolution, customer experience impacts, social care team-building, integration with traditional customer service strategies and internal processes, proactive vs. reactive support, measurements and so on.
Among the attendees was Cosimo Palmisano, Vice President of Product Management at Decisyon (a provider of collaborative BI and performance management solutions with customers in USA and Europe) and creator of Decisyon/Ecce, complete social CRM solution – a Decisyon built-in technology – with well-focused social customer service features. Cosimo accepted to give us its personal overview on the summit and on its outcomes.
1. Hi Cosimo, thanks for your availability for this interview and for sharing with us your impressions. First of all tell us something about the summit from a global perspective: how was the location, the agenda, the sessions, the quality of speakers, the other services (catering, Wi-Fi access, etc.) at the event?
This was the 3rd annual Social Media for Customer Service Summit organized by “Useful Social Media”. While it was quite a small two-day event in terms of overall participation by vendors and clients, I believe it was extremely well organized. The main speakers were all key employees from organizations that have been using Social Media for Customer Service. Their perspectives regarding their individual “journeys” with Social Caring, successes, failures, false-starts and the on-going iteration process associated with learning what works and changing what does not work was not only to the point and enlightening, but in each instance validated to me and my colleagues that Decisyon/Ecce (Decisyon/Engage in the US) is ideally suited to this Business Space.
The conference was organized in 1 hour round table sessions with at least 3 companies and a technology provider on the panel. Each session was separated by a 30 minute break for networking. The themes were very narrow in the field of Social CRM and Social Customer Service and the speakers were all senior managers and VPs of digital, Marketing, CRM, Customer Service, etc. no young social media managers.
The location for the conference, which was at the New Yorker Hotel in New York City, was convenient and the conference venue and catering was appropriate for the overall number of attendees (under 200, combined companies and exhibitors). Wi-Fi Access was provided as part of the conference fee and the catering provided (Continental Breakfast and full lunch) was more than sufficient and provided an opportunity to network as well. Should the conference continue to gain support and the number of participants grows, it may become necessary for the organizers to choose another location. However, for what the Summit is today, the venue was excellent.
2. What do you think about the brand and the audience parterre ?
The brands represented as key speakers as well as the brands in the audience all represented “Marquis” names in their industries. One got the sense that from a Social Media perspective that on the ROI associated with Social Caring, they were all challenged with coming up with true business value.
100% of companies represented were in the Fortune 500 and they have shown great commitment in managing Social CRM and Social Customer Service, having dedicated teams and starting looking for a complete, one-stop technical solution for managing all social CRM processes from operations to data integration.
Speakers consistently voiced the opinion that determining ROI was difficult at this stage, however all seemed to agree that there was “no return on ignoring” their customers.
3. In general, which were your prior expectations about the event and its contents?
I had imagined that the organizations in the US would be much further along with their Social Caring initiatives and investment. And although this conference represents a small percentage of all organizations, I believe that my prior expectations were incorrect and that the North American market represents a significant opportunity for our organization to penetrate with Decisyon/Engage. I was expecting much more maturity in measuring the ROI of Social Customer Service and a higher degree of integration between social data and traditional legacy data. What we are doing with customers in Europe is really more advanced.
4. Which are the topics that you were more interested in following and deepening?
- The goals of Social Caring leaders to leverage Social Data and to combine that data with their legacy CRM one inside the firewall, thereby transforming data into a company asset. This, of course, is something that Decisyon is capable of doing; in fact, Decisyon offers our “Social Integration Server” (SIS) that is designed to accomplish that integration of Social Data with Legacy/CRM Data.
- The goal of creating a technological infrastructure that enables Real-Time Collaboration between organizational business units, for example Customer Service and Marketing. Decisyon, by providing a Real-Time Social Collaboration platform, is offering today what seems to be one of the next steps on the Social Technology roadmaps many of the speakers referred to.
5. Which of the case studies that were exhibited impressed you the most?
That is a difficult question to answer because all of the presentations provided excellent perspectives and insights. I’d have to say that the presentation from Capital One Bank was the most impressive. Their goal is to “harness the voice of the customer” by creating a “Social Command Center” and leveraging what they term a “Social Virtuous Cycle” in which they “Listen—Engage—Support—Measure—Learn”. They acknowledge that in order to be successful with that strategy, they’ll be required to capture customer insights from Social and populate their Enterprise CRM. They mentioned some integration projects in order to correlate social customer behaviors with the sales cycles.
6. Tell us something about the most relevant results that emerged from the summit? Did you find significant ideas for your next product developments?
The most significant take-aways from the summit can be summed up as follows:
- Social Caring provides opportunities to transform ordinary moments (issues, challenges) into Extraordinary Public Wins.
- Social Customer operations cannot be externalized to agencies.
- Although there is a huge proliferation of social networks, Facebook and Twitter are the ones with the numbers and relevance for social customer service.
- Though marketing departments were the early adopters of leveraging Social, it has now become evident that Social Customer Service should be a major driver. The Social strategy should not be “owned” by one or the other but rather be approached in a collaborative environment.
- Integration of social data with legacy systems is mandatory to achieve a positive ROI.
- Prior to engaging in Social Caring, a Customer Service escalation process should be in place.
- Social Media initiatives for Customer Support and Service are growing rapidly.
- Customers desire in-channel problem resolution as opposed to deflection.
- Social Caring engagement/communications should be similar to one friend speaking with another rather than a Corporation speaking to a customer.
- Collaboration between teams (Customer Service — Marketing— Product Development) is imperative.
- The customer expects rapid acknowledgement of an issue by the organization. Great customer service does not simply provide a competitive advantage but is, in fact, an absolute necessity.
- Sentiment analysis is useless if the first aim is to engage customers in Facebook and Twitter. The ability to automatically infer sentiment in short conversations, with links and multiple languages is still a utopia.
7. After your summit attendance, how do you foresee the next developments in social customer service?
First of all the number of dedicated agents on social customer service will increase. As long as the CEOs will experience a lower number of inbound phone calls, and managers will show the ROI of Social Customer Service the companies will reinforce the message and the teams.
Social Customer Service as part of a multichannel strategy needs to be processed together with the traditional channels. It will be necessary to compare channels but also to get a unique customer view independently by the channel. So far, companies will ask for technologies that are not just social marketing tools but big data platforms that are able to store, analyze and connect different sources of data coming from different departments and functional areas.
Finally yet importantly, social customer service can become the first mandatory step to drive and enhance lead generation. In our experience companies that are able to leverage technology and a social caring process via collaboration, are able to increase the number of prospects and customers that instead of complaining, will ask for upsells and new quotations.
Another relevant aspect not discussed is the B2B side of Social CRM. In the next few years this will become even more compelling for companies to involve the whole value chain in the social processes.
8. Finally, being a multinational social CRM vendor, do you perceive specific differences, between US and European customers, in awareness and consequent adoption of social media for customer service strategies?
Excellent Customer Service is a major differentiator for organizations in both Europe and the US. The Social “Genie” is out of the bottle and regardless of purpose-driven Social Caring being in place, the voice of your customers will be heard. Of course, the way I view this is that it represents an opportunity, not only for Decisyon but for our clients as well. I was expecting a major difference between the two markets. Social Customer service is a major issue. In US the percentage of companies with a dedicated teams with more than 20 agents 24/7 is higher than in Europe. Worldwide we share the same aim of multi-channel integration and social data integration with legacy systems. In both areas it is becoming recognized that this kind of integration cannot be performed in the cloud but must occur inside the company firewall.