We all know that companies are trying to leverage social channels for customer service. But how can they be deployed in a way that adds value to an organization? Here are my thoughts:

You can’t implement social technologies in a silo within your contact center because you have to be able to deliver a consistent experience across the communication channels you support: voice, the electronic ones, and the social ones. Read my blog post on how you can do this.

Once you get the basics right, you are ready to add social media capabilities. Best practices include:

  • Start by listening to customer conversations. These conversations can surface general issues with products, services, and company processes. Make sure you create workflows to route surfaced issues to the correct organization so they can be worked on.
  • Flag and address social inquiries. Understand the general sentiments expressed in these conversations, but also identify specific customer inquiries and route them to the right agent pool for resolution.
  • Extend your customer service ecosystem with communities. This allows your customers to share information, best practices, and how-to tips with each other, as well as get advice without needing to interact with your agents. But don’t implement them in a technology silo; they should be well-integrated with current contact center processes.

Customers should be able to start a discussion in a community, and be able to escalate it at any point to a customer service agent for resolution. When searching for answers on your site, customers should see relevant content from the knowledge base as well as pertinent discussion threads. Customers should be able to recommend discussion threads to be added to your knowledge base.

  • Offer customer service from your Facebook page. Facebook has more than 700 million members, who collectively spend 3 billion hours a year on the site. You want to engage your customers in the medium where they spend their time. You can extend your Facebook page by adding a customer service tab to it, which allows your customers to interact with your knowledge base or community and engage with an agent without leaving Facebook.
  • Leverage the power of your agents and customers. Customers and agents rely on knowledge base content get answers to their questions. But not all content needs to be created by dedicated authoring teams — you can leverage your agents to  author and maintain content. Your customers can also rate and recommend content. Expert users can also create content.
  • Proactively push customer service to where your customers are. Leverage services like Twitter and LinkedIn to push alerts, product announcements, and new knowledge out to customers in an effort to make customers aware of changes, helping deflect inquiries from the contact center. Companies like VMWare are doing this really well.

Be systematic in adding social to your channel mix. Advertise your new capabilities, measure your success, and tune your offering. Read my report on this topic for more advice. Or share thoughts with others on this blog.