Averting Online Customer Service Backlash

Customer Service
Customer Service
An effective social business strategy starts in the contact center, using analytics as an early warning system for predicting potential at-risk service situations.

Attention marketing practitioners: Your customers may be ahead of you when pursuing the best ways to get a response from your company's customer service operation. And, it's a tactic that you should be monitoring closely. In increasing numbers, customers are taking their frustrations with products and services to sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, as they realize these social media networks are prompting more rapid attention and responses than dialing into a contact center and speaking with a live agent.

Yesterday's challenges in managing word-of-mouth discussions seem trivial compared to what companies face today with the rise of social media. A bad experience no longer results in a customer telling 10 of her friends, who then tell 10 additional friends. Instead, in today's business environment, a customer with a bad experience can instantly tell 10 million of his "friends" with a single mouse click. Many strong brands and organizations have found themselves pushed into reactive mode by this social media wave-a force that is driving them to get out in front of the next high-exposure theme or topic.

Now more than ever, it's critical that marketers partner with their customer service counterparts with a proactive approach in this ever-changing social ecosystem, and anticipate customer service issues before they become spotlights of "what not to do" across the social media sphere. This makes it the ideal time to enact an early warning system. The good news is that these systems likely already exist within your organization. The key is uncovering and taking action on the vast intelligence that already resides in the contact center organization and even the corporate website.

Monitoring social networks can surface what is public, while internal interactions help validate and differentiate between anecdotal incidents and potential customer service risks before they even happen. By mining the unstructured internal customer interactions-such as phone calls, chat sessions, and emails-companies can capture the magnitude, level, and channels of customer contacts, as well as new topics and areas of frustration associated with respective issues. By knowing what is happening, businesses can take action sooner rather than later. As a result, companies can focus social media monitoring efforts to carefully track activitydistinguishing the ripples from wide-scale problems.

Traditionally, customers have gone through the contact center first when filing complaints about a product or service. Tools that help determine and track customer behaviors, such as speech, text, and data analytics, can be used to predict and identify trends that may find their way into the public domain, helping organizations avoid customer service backlash played out on the web through social channels. Speech analytics, for example, automatically categorizes and analyzes call content to reveal the root causes of rising call volumes, customer perceptions, and customer behaviors. Such tools have the power to surface trends that companies don't even know to look for-all without listening to thousands of calls. Speech analytics can automatically identify increase frequency of terms and phrases like "unacceptable," "problem," "unhappy," and "cancel my account," even if there were not predefined by the user. Similarly, text analytics can mine conversations via email and chat to identify customer service issues via those channels early on.

Armed with these types of analytics solutions, marketers and customer service leaders have powerful tools right at their fingertips that provide clear insight into customers' wants and needs, and how well they're being delivered. While such systems may not stop every disgruntled customer from sharing their complaints on social networks, they can act as an effective early warning system to diagnose at-risk situations and, as a result, decrease social media backlash.

Contrary to conventional thinking, an effective social business strategy actually starts in the contact center, extending across customer service operations. A company's contact center serves as the central hub for identifying and responding to customer complaints before they make their way into the viral social media sphere.

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About the Author: Daniel Ziv serves as vice president of customer interaction analytics at VerintWitness Actionable Solutions. Contact him at daniel.ziv@verint.com