Case Study

Serving the Social Customer

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor  |  April 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Customers have always been “social” for they–we as human beings–are social creatures, relying on each of us for vital information to help us survive and prosper. We have asked and have listened to our peers, and have passed the information we gleaned on to them. When we have items to offer, customers listen to us and then consult others and we do the same in turn when we are buyers.

Mass media, merchandising and the atomization of living and working into auto-isolated suburbs, accompanied by the fading away of formal and informal face-to-face social vehicles such as service clubs and kaffeeklatches diminished–but not eliminated–the “social customer”. This left though an unmet demand for such interactions. Not surprisingly, when the Web and the knowledge accessible over it, enabled by residential and wireless broadband that permits anytime, anywhere communications that overcame the spatial barriers, the social customer returned.

Rosetta Stone, which makes language learning software, offers an excellent example of serving the social customer. Founded in 1992, it permits millions of schools, organizations and individuals spanning across 150 different countries to learn 31 languages with its award-winning technology. Headquartered in Arlington, Va., it serves its global clientele with a 100-plus seat contact center, located in Harrisonburg, Va.

A couple of years ago, Rosetta Stone’s management began noticing that many individuals were commenting about the firm, not just via phone to its contact center agents, or in e-mails or paper letters, but on their individual Facebook (News - Alert) pages. At the same time, it wanted to increase customer satisfaction, boost live chat use and promote issue self-resolution to keep costs down, explains Jay Topper, Rosetta Stone’s senior vice president of customer success. An integrated solution with social media would accomplish these goals.

Rosetta Stone decided to engage with its customers and prospects via social media directly by hosting its own Facebook site. It tapped Parature (News - Alert) ( to manage the presence, aggregate the Facebook comments with those from the contact center and record, filter, flag and notify the firm’s contact center agents of issues and opportunities from a centralized database.

Parature had just developed Parature for Facebook and was looking for beta customers. Parature was the first, and to its knowledge, the only software company that provided direct support access through Facebook. Rosetta Stone then became Parature’s first beta and live Parature for Facebook users.

“With Parature for Facebook, the ultimate goal was to provide a new channel of contact for customers to reach us, not only for customer service and support, but also to connect with other existing customers to chat about their experience using our software,” explains Topper.

The program developed by Parature for Rosetta Stone permitted fans, from a single Facebook page, to write on Rosetta Stone’s Wall, search the knowledgebase, peruse FAQs and/or chat with the contact center agents. All Facebook support inquiries would be directed into a single Parature database.

The Parature team created a customized online support engine specifically for the social media venue and managed the launch, which, says Topper “meant simply making the solution live on the social media site. Agents did not need to undergo extra training since they were already familiar with the Parature system.”

The program, which went live in August 2010, has been a success. Weeks after setting up, results from a survey reported that Parature for Facebook support through live chat went from zero to 10 percent, while customer satisfaction rose 90 percent. A single contact center agent could chat with multiple customers from different channels simultaneously on Facebook, TOTALe and the Rosetta Stone website.

Every week Rosetta Stone receives approximately 25,000 customer touches. It also provides real-time support to around 300,000 Facebook fans on a website that those users are already visiting.

Future plans will see these numbers grow markedly. Rosetta Stone is expanding the Parature for Facebook program to other countries without adding to its customer support team.

“We were attempting to extend support to a large and rapidly growing Facebook fan base of customers, prospects and language enthusiasts, “ says Topper. “By installing Parature for Facebook, this challenge has been overcome. Though [our] customers span across 150 countries [we’re] confident that Parature will be able to keep pace during the expansion.”

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi