Is it time for CRM to get social? (interview)

22 May 2012

With the launch of Facebook integration with LiveOps Social, a CRM tool that aids customer service on social media and other channels, we ask LiveOps senior vice-president and chief marketing officer Ann Ruckstuhl: is social media the ideal customer service tool?

Marketers twigged a long time ago that social networks could be an incredibly useful resource for them, and we now see ‘Find us on Facebook’ or ‘Follow us on Twitter’ badges alongside just about every brand name. However, having a presence on these highly populated networks opens businesses up to customer contact they might not be prepared for.

Today, LiveOps, a cloud contact centre and customer service solutions provider, is showcasing its new Facebook integration at the Cloudforce Social Enterprise Tour event in London. This new service comes as an add-on to its already-existing LiveOps Social platform, which connects customer care teams with customers via a wide range of channels. The decision to incorporate Facebook into this service was an obvious one.

“(Facebook) is a new thing that is in everybody’s vernacular, and customer service is what’s missing on Facebook today – big time,” said Ruckstuhl, speaking ahead of the launch of the new service. “There are more listening tools and monitoring tools out there than you can shake a stick at, but nobody gives you the ability to respond to these users.”

Two-thirds of complaints on social media are ignored

This is exactly where LiveOps Social comes in. The cloud software application brings social media into the mix for contact centres, enabling brands and customers to engage in two-way interactions on the customer’s channel of choice.

As social networks become a large part of everyday life, it’s inevitable that consumers would begin to use these as a point of contact for businesses and services. However, a study from Maritz Research shows that, while customers are happy to engage with brands using social media, chances are 1 in 3 they will actually receive a response to a complaint. Most of the time, the consumer is ignored.

This lack of concern for customers’ needs is startling, especially considering more than 80pc of consumers are delighted when companies respond to them on social media, even if their initial message was one of complaint. And 63pc said they would hate or not like it if the company contacted them about something other than their complaint – such a difference in customer sentiment determined by a simple response.

Be prepared to communicate

“What this is telling you is that the companies are not equipped to handle this transformation that’s happening in social media,” said Ruckstuhl, referring to these statistics. “When they can’t handle voice calls and they can’t handle emails, it’s kind of private; no one knows that they can’t handle it. Even if you have a queue and a response time of three years, nobody knows about it. Well, eventually, people will complain, but it’s still somewhat outside of the public realm.”

However, social media is very public, and some brands learn that the hard way. “When you don’t (respond to customers) on Facebook and on Twitter, it’s for everybody to see,” added Ruckstuhl.

For Ruckstuhl, the answer is as clear as day: if brands are going to be present on social networks, they need to be prepared to communicate with the people that are already there – and not just by broadcasting their company message. “When you open up a company Facebook page, think about it,” she warned. “When you open it up, you’re not opening it up not for a one-way dialogue – that’s called advertising. You’re opening up a two-way conversation.”

Disastrous consequences

The consequences of a brand ignoring their customers on these channels can be disastrous. Ruckstuhl used Netflix US as an example. “(Netflix) changed their pricing and the consumer base had a revolt,” she said. “Over the course of just about three weeks, it had 82,000 negative comments on its Facebook, on its blogs, and Twitter. And, within about three months, Netflix lost about 800,000 customers, and it lost two-thirds of its market value. It’s overwhelming.”

This is an extreme example, but it doesn’t temper the reality that consumers are paying attention to social networks, even if brands aren’t. “The revolution has already happened because the consumers are in control, and you need to meet them where they want to be,” said Ruckstuhl.

While countless brands get it wrong, there are ways to get it right in dealing with customers through social media. “To be able to do it right is a combination of getting the right people, the right process and the right technology together to be able to service a new breed of highly social, highly vocal, highly mobile, 24/7 x 365 consumer – that’s you and I,” Ruckstuhl added, pointing to LiveOps as an essential tool in this process.

All bases covered

LiveOps Social helps solve this customer service gap by providing a system where all bases are covered: phone, email, SMS, and social media. Combined with queue management and intelligent routing, it’s a formidable tool for companies – if they know how to use it correctly.

Now that LiveOps has decided to integrate Facebook, does that make it official that social media is the ideal platform for customer relationship management? “You don’t have a choice!” said Ruckstuhl and laughed. “I think that the consumer has already voted with their voice.”

LiveOps Social with new Facebook integration is available immediately to companies worldwide through LiveOps or its global partner network.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.