How to Improve the Social CRM Experience with Self-Service Offerings

Almost every organization with a Social CRM will tell you that they want to provide a good customer service experience. No one sets out to disappoint and drive customers away, but it happens every day.

One way your company can dramatically improve social customer service is to let customers serve themselves. Now, of course that doesn’t mean that you abandon phone support or ignore customer requests in favor of self-service.

Self-serve portals

Both you and the customer benefit from providing self-serve portals. Following are some of the tangible benefits for your customers:

  • Ease of navigation: Customers see a complete listing of the help you offer: FAQs, catalogs, product descriptions, specs, and so on.

  • Shared information: Customers see what other customers are saying and doing in regard to your products.

  • Access to status of reported issues: They can review their support tickets 24/7.

Here are some of the tangible benefits for your company:

  • Access to customers’ real thoughts: Customers provide feedback, so you can see how effective each part of your site is.

  • Visibility of current promotions: You can make sure customers see specific documents or promotions.

  • Cost cutting: You cut down on costly tech support calls to a live operator.

  • Increased call center staff productivity: Self-service increases the productivity of your call center staff. They can focus on higher-priority calls.

  • The latest info on customer trends: Reports from your social CRM provide key information about what topics are hot.

  • Less work for staff: Self-serve portals provide assistance without requiring costly phone support.

Integrate a self-service portal

Integration of self-serve options can be challenging. You’ll want to make sure that you’re adding value to your system, not just adding a layer of complexity. It’s not a sexy project, but one that has lasting value.

Just like the undertaking of any technical project, consider the following when you plan your portal:

  • Set expectations for everyone, communicating what’s possible and what’s not. Employees may have different ideas about the use of self-serve portals. Some see it as a big opportunity; others see it as a waste of time. When you begin, make sure that each employee knows all the benefits and cost-saving value your company will accrue.

  • Evaluate staff responsibilities. Make sure you understand which employees will be impacted and who will have direct responsibility. You need to get buy-in from all involved, from top management to staffers.

  • Evaluate resources and costs. Know what you need to spend to get the portal that meets your needs. Establish a budget and be realistic about costs.

  • Think about scalability. One of the main reasons why some tech projects go wrong is that growth isn’t considered. Right now, you may need a small portal, but consider how you will support it if your company grows in size, adds products, and has to serve more customers.

  • Set a timeline. Many IT projects start with an unrealistic timeline. The dates are either driven by management expectations or a lack of understanding about complexity. Be realistic. Wishing won’t make it so.

  • Make sure you identify the data and metrics you want to use. You determine success metrics for your self-serve portal ahead of time.

  • Make sure everyone knows about launch plans and follow-through. There’s nothing worse than hearing a support person say, “They never tell us what’s happening.” We’ve all experienced that. It makes people feel helpless and resentful that our time is being wasted. Make sure everyone knows when things launch and how to use the information to assist customers.

The social knowledge base

Social knowledge bases can be financial assets. You can use them to capture vital information from both inside and outside the company. Some knowledge bases take the form of business wikis. A wiki is a database that users can edit. People can add new content and modify entries as needed. The most common example of a wiki is Wikipedia.

We categorize social knowledge bases in organizations as follows:

  • Internal knowledge base (may also be a wiki): Companies have a wealth of information stored in the heads of their employees. They also have product information, manuals, documents, and a host of disparate information that gets lost in the clutter. In order to optimize the use of this content, companies create wikis that employees can use to input and search for important data.

    Examples of this include information about specific ongoing projects or company policies. Companies most often use a wiki for this type of database because it gives them the ability to extract important knowledge from employees.

  • External knowledge base (may also be a wiki): These kinds of wikis are accessed by customers, product advocates, and departments to provide essential information for their customers. An external knowledge base can be part of a self-serve portal or a community-based site, or it can stand alone. Examples of the information collected here include product information, FAQs, help information, and manuals.

American Express has made great use of a social knowledge base (not a wiki). It’s even more valuable if you’re a member. As a member, you can log in and see both your own personal information and the knowledge base that can be used to grow your own business.

Another company lauded for its use of a knowledge base is Autodesk. Its site is called WikiHelp. It boasts a large active community of participants and over two million contributions to its database.

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If you’d like to create your own knowledge base, here are some vendor platforms to consider:

  • MindTouch: One of the most well-known wiki vendors. Their products are cloud-based, enterprise contact management systems.

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  • Microsoft Office 365: This is one of the big boys associated with knowledge-management systems. They are cloud-based and can be set up in Sharepoint.

  • MediaWiki: This one is free and open source.

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