We asked Dimitri Callens, Director of Product Management at Clarabridge, all “the things” around the social media management industry.
Here’s his take:
1. What do you believe are the key ingredients for a brand to engage successfully with its customers on social media?
First and foremost, you have to listen to what is being said about you out there. There are plenty of tools that will help you understand the trends, your audience, and what they like and dislike about what you offer. Then adapt your messaging to your audiences. Don’t try to push your product—today’s generations see right through that. Be honest and post content that can spark their interest about what your product can do for them.
And if you are offering customer service on social, make sure it is in the DNA of your company to see customer service as an investment, not as a cost. If everyone in your company believes helping customers is a positive thing, instead of a burden, it will shine through in how you appear online—for anyone to see!
2. As an industry insider, what are you most excited about concerning innovation in the field?
This is not a technical innovation but one that is happening in the minds: more and more executives understand that social customer service should not be seen as a cost, but as an investment.
I recently had this discussion with a CEO of a rapidly growing online retailer that specializes in car luggage racks. “It literally costs me money having my people answer customer questions, and it does not gain me a penny as the product is already sold,” he said. Of course, from an accountant’s point of view, he was right. But even from a broader view, he told me it was a cost. I did not feel like angering him more at that point, so I left it at that and we had a fun evening. However, the next day he was in the same line as I was waiting for our high-speed train, which was delayed. We decided to have a quick meal together. He ordered his but forgot to ask whether there were any mushrooms in there, as he really disliked those. Upon getting served, he asked the employee, but the employee did not know. “There might be some in the sauce” was the reply, to which he responded “If you don’t know this basic knowledge, you will not see me here anymore.” A second later, he rolled his eyes, glanced at me and told me “Okay, you win.” At that moment, I pushed him over the edge by telling him, “Imagine if everyone could read how this conversation went between you and this business, like on social media.”
It is good to see that more and more businesses understand that a penny not lost is a penny won. Definitely in these economic times, when services that come with a product are becoming more and more the core of many businesses, it is even more important to retain customers than win new ones.
The great technical innovations of today are the huge steps taken in having computers understand human language. The better applications out there offer real-time analytics on incoming customer queries that understand whether a question is urgent or not, whether a customer has to make a lot of effort in getting what they want or not. This allows for the most important questions to be routed immediately to agents, while less urgent ones can wait a bit longer. We all know that some of our questions to brands are not as urgent as others. The issue before was that brands were unable to make that distinction without having all incoming queries read immediately by humans (impossible) or channeling their service to specific channels (often not those that consumers like to use). Text analytics help brands in prioritizing what is most important.
3. Can you share your thoughts around social customer service and how it differs from (or parallels) social media management?
The traditional take is to view social media management as a marketing thing, while social customer service is run in a separate department. This does not work any longer.
Marketing used to be a public monologue: pushing out content about your brand on all channels, without anyone being able to respond to it. Customer service used to be a private dialogue: agents answering a single customer at a time in a private conversation. Social media changed all that. Everything has become a public dialogue. Imagine your marketing department pushing out content that is deemed “fake news” by lots of existing customers. The backlash could be huge. Who cleans that up? Customer service.
Even when marketing manages your social presence perfectly, with them understanding their audience and creating great content, there is no way they can leave customer service out of the equation, as anything they post might trigger a reaction which they need to be ready to engage with.
On the other hand, social media is a channel where consumers interact with brands in a less formal way. Make sure marketing instructs your service agents on tone of voice and what brand personality should shine through in their interactions.
4. Name that trend: Can you share what industry trend you are most excited about at the moment as well as what’s hot but probably not worth the hype?
There is no denying it: bots are currently very hot subject matter. And for good reason—the advent of text analytics allows for way better bots than we have ever had in the past.
However, as a company, don’t think you can easily launch a conversational bot at this moment in history. Conversational bots are coming—there is no doubt—but I would not invest in them for now. All the building blocks are there, but it will take years to actually construct a bot that can chit-chat with your customers. And don’t try to fake that: some consumers will see it as a gadget and move on; most will dislike a conversation that feels very unnatural.
Nowadays bots are great, though, at solving frequently asked questions and pointing your consumers to your knowledge base. Those are pretty quick wins that any business should look into.
5. Tell us the most rewarding interaction you have ever had with a brand on social and why it has stuck with you.
I recently had quite some issues with a new car that required me to make frequent visits to the dealership. They have this drive-in system where you drive into the garage, you are attended to and your car is taken further in the garage by an employee. However, I noticed that during busy times, some people lined up their cars, then got out of their cars and lined up themselves at the computer desk in that space. This led to the employees first serving people whose cars were in the back of the line, completely messing up the system and the mood of the customers. I kind of enjoyed watching this quite comical chaos but also took a picture of it, posted it on the dealership’s Facebook page with a description of what had happened and added “What about a sign that asks you to kindly remain in your car and you will be attended to?” The post blew up, with lots of people saying they had encountered the exact same thing—which led to lots of laughs. Last time I went there, a sign was up with my exact words. I felt really proud of having solved a little bit of frustration in people’s daily lives.