Social Support 2.0

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Michael Buenaventura

July 20, 2012

Monitoring Your Company’s Social Media Channels

So you have completed the first stage of your company’s social media strategy, you have effectively created well-branded social media accounts on every relevant social network and you have accumulated a sizeable following of fans, followers, etc. Congratulations! Many people would argue that you have achieved your primary objective.

Now what?

First, let’s examine a recent survey conducted in Britain. A random sampling of 2,000 consumers was questioned by YouGov on behalf of a company called Brandwatch. The results revealed that fifty percent of the survey takers complain to companies via Twitter because they actually want those companies to improve their product or service. This contradicts common misconception that every complaint via Twitter is a ploy to merely receive a refund, compensation or special offer in return for their dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, the survey also discovered that most brands do not use the criticism to improve their product or service and merely dispute the negative feedback.

Companies like Ford, Zappos and Amazon have proven on a daily basis that effectively engaging your customers in a positive way via social media can translate into immediate increases in revenue and brand loyalty. Real-time monitoring and responding to your customers rapidly is imperative to the success of your overall social media branding strategy and revenue objectives. Here are four ways you can accomplish this, along with the pros and cons of each option:

In-House Customer Support Teams

The most common and costly approach. Monitoring your company’s social media accounts has become a crucial part of a brand’s protection and some companies will never consider alternative solutions.

Pros
– Under “one roof.” Many companies prefer to keep all customer support in-house, so they can closely monitor the employees interacting with their customers on a daily basis.
– Recruiting. Entry-level positions can provide excellent opportunities for companies to promote outstanding leaders within their ranks.
– Leadership. Daily interaction and lessons from your company’s top brass can help inspire and teach your customer support agents what your brand is all about.

Cons
– Cost. Unless you open satellite offices in countries with better exchange rates, in-house employees always cost more.
– High turnover. Entry level jobs always have the highest employee turnover. With the exception of a few elite brands, most entry level employees actively seek new opportunities with better pay.
– Hours limitations. 24/7 support can only be achieved with a night shift, which will always be a less desirable position to recruit for.

Software & Other Misc Technical Solutions

Companies like Radian6, Wildfire and Sprout Social have made tremendous advances in technology and software that can accurately monitor your customers. However, customer support agents are still needed to respond to customers and complement this solution.

Pros
– Quick data analysis. Software and technical tools are able to analyze and process a large amount of social media data quickly.
– Machine vs Human. Technical solutions lack restrictions that affect humans.
– Consistency. Human error is inevitable, but software should consistently perform.

Cons
– Cost. Often technical solution providers require long-term service agreements. To achieve your goals, customer support agents will still be necessary.
– Subjective decision making. Technical solutions cannot make subjective decisions which are uniquely a human characteristic.
– Training software is limited. Some companies continue to improve their products, but that’s one area where humans excel because they can continue to be trained and improve.

Outsourcing

Some firms specialize in providing customer support solutions via non-traditional mediums like social media. These solutions can be cost effective, but there are calculated risks to utilizing this alternative for customer support.

Pros
– Cost. Cut operation costs. Hire more employees for less.
– Specialized firms. Customer support is their focus, so they typically excel at that.
– Immediacy. Have a center or team working for you in a very quick time period, 24/7.

Cons
– Presence. You will need to work to maintain a presence without being able to actually be physically present.
– Loyalty. Your team members are technically employed by a third party. They might not have your company’s best interest in mind.
– Brand representation. Your outsourcing firm must be someone you have confidence in and will represent your brand well.

Crowdsourcing, Using Freelance Customer Support Agents

It’s imperative that you are able to create effective training and education materials, so they are able to respond to your customers appropriately and in a way that reinforces your brand.

Pros
– Short-term employment contracts. Easier to cancel if a freelancer is not a good fit.
– Global flexibility. Recruit freelancers in opposite time zones to achieve 24/7 support/monitoring
– Competitive rates. Utilize services like oDesk to retain freelancers that fit your budget.

Cons
– Distractions. Many freelancers work with 3-4 companies at a time, which limits their focus.
– Language & cultural differences. Many freelancers hail from countries outside of the US. Their ability to relate or communicate with your customers can be easily hindered.
– Pay for what you get. Lower rate usually means diminished skill set. Cheap freelancers can appear attractive to your bottom line, but their ability often reflects their rate.

Ideally, your company’s resources are limitless and you can make a decision devoid of any consideration for cost. Such is never the case and options are frequently limited. Focus on what you are able to realistically accomplish and utilize solutions that will achieve your marketing and branding goals.

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