Bob Warfield recently wrote a article on the need to integrate Customer Service and customer interaction. Additionally, he also pointed towards the very real possibility of how sometimes being too social can be the wrong move for a company.
Bob’s observation highlights the customer service challenge of finding the right mix between offering self-service options mixed with help from real people via phone and via also social media channels. It’s about providing service in ways customers want and need.
Circling around all this social challenge, companies also still need to be cost-effective in managing their businesses.
Break it down and the challenge is about finding a balance between business need and user/customer needs. That’s a driving motivator behind whole Social CRM movement.
Rackspace Email (formerly Mailtrust) is an excellent example of a company who is successfully hurdling the challenge as they offer excellent service delivered by a variety of avenues.
The Rackspace Email experience
Before going any further, let me point out I’m a Rackspace Email customer and have experience with the company’s service delivered through phone, self-service and Twitter channels. Here are some highlights of what a customer can expect.
At any time, including during the middle of the night, a Rackspace Email customer can call a real person for help. The customer service rep (or team as needed) stays with the customer until the problem is resolved and reps both receive and initiate support phone calls as needed. That’s right, folks, Rackspace reps actually pick up the phone and initiate follow through phone calls on an issue as needed.
Additionally, Rackspace Email also provides a wealth of detailed online information for self-service and they actively monitor social media channels and participate in those discussions, answer customer questions, etc.
Case in point. I tweeted out an service question to Rackspace and received a tweety response back in less than 30 minutes. Just what I needed, the way I wanted, with no fuss.
Rackspace Email has created a customer service environment where folks like me can get help from them in ways beneficial for a given situation and customer preference for interaction.
Does the company’s approach help them retain customers? Speaking for myself, the answer is absolutely. I’m a happy clam and it will be extremely hard for a competitor to get me to leave Rackspace. I’d rather pay them a monthly fee then switch to a free Gmail account because the quality of their outstanding customer service.
Where Social CRM comes into play
Let’s face it. While offering great service – and multiple delivery channels – is a foundation of customer loyalty, a company still has to gather intelligence about its activities in order to analyze its business and create its business strategy.
CRM solutions provide the starting point for companies to process-oriented information. The thing is, though, the social media world is conversational so traditional CRM solutions may not meet the needs of service delivered through social channels.
Social CRM (or SCRM) solutions incorporate the conversational demands of social media with monitor and interconnecting tools. Examples of conversational demands include:
- Online discussions/forums,
- Blogs, and
- Social networks.
Additionally, examples of monitoring and interconnecting tools include:
- Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud monitoring tools,
- Enhanced web monitoring solutions like those offered by a provider like Radian 6.
- Brand monitoring services,
- Cloud computingand
Customers are taking charge of the way they communicate with their vendors. They still want “traditional” methods like phone, email, chat and self-service knowledge bases. However, they also are demanding social media avenues of engagement.
The companies who understand that and take action to incorporate social media into their delivery channels will score higher wins than the companies that stick solely with tradition.
Paul Greenberg captures it nicely:
The lesson for business, in terms of Social CRM is that we are now at a point that the customers' expectations are so great and their demands so empowered that our SCRM business strategy needs to be built around collaboration and customer engagement, not traditional operational customer management.
Companies still need CRM solutions and should not make any apologies for it nor for finding cost-effective ways of providing their services.
Incorporating Social CRM solutions allow companies to continue to gather, store and analyze information about their process-oriented business activities. The social aspects of the solution then allow them to manage the conversational, monitoring, and interconnectivity demands as well.
Update to article (8/25/09, 12:50 pm EST):
This is just a further example of how Rackspace is doing social media well.
At 10:39 am EST, I tweeted out to all my 2,632 Twitter followers a link to this Rackspace article.
At 10:45 am, @RackApps, a Rackspace corporate Twitter user, retweeted my post and sent it out to all of their followers. Do the math. They responded to a Rackspace-related tweet within 5 minutes of it being posted. In addition to recognizing me personally, they shared a good news story about their company to their own 5,688 followers.
At 12:24 pm, @RackApps sent me a tweet thanking me personally for my patronage and asking me to "Let us know if there's anything we can do to help you further." Do you think Rackspace's tweets, especially the second one, reinforce my good feelings about them? You betcha.
At 12:52 pm, I tweeted @RackApps to reiterate "I'm a happy clam with Rackspace service," back out to all my followers.
Oh and by the way, @handshake20 also retweeted my post about Rackspace at 11:24 to her 488 Twitter followers.
As of writing this update, that means that up to 8,808 folks heard good news about Rackspace -- multiple times -- in the space of a little more than 2 hours. In the longer run, Rackspace also identified a pro-article about them they can further reference, if they choose, in their other marketing efforts.
Additionally, I also used social media to the advantage of Intellicore Design Consulting. Rackspace's attention to this article has upped our website traffic and pushed a newly posted article at an accelerated rate.
And that's the power of social media.