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January 25, 2013

Social Media Support is Not a Part-time Job

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

It’s not surprising that companies of all sizes are daunted by social media. Most companies only recently got a grip on Web channels being added to the usual mix of telephone and more traditional channels, and now there is social media, which has struck them like a hammer blow.

Social media is particularly challenging in a customer support concept. One agitated customer on the phone is a problem between that customer and the company. One angry, dissatisfied customer on social media can air his or her grievances to a few hundred or a few thousand people, and the complaint stays within the reach of anyone with a search engine for the indefinite future.

So how do you master social media in your customer support organization? Not with traditional skills, that’s for certain.

A recent Verizon Wireless blog notes that customer support in the social age demands an understanding of what’s on customers’ minds and how to solve their problems. It’s critical that companies large and small maintain a social presence and be sure to interact with customers in the way they expect: that is, in real time.

“While consumers are becoming more accustomed to using social media in communicating with companies and their brands, too many companies are struggling to meet high expectations for quick and satisfactory responses,” Joshua March, CEO of social media company Conversocial, told Verizon Wireless (News - Alert).

Companies known for better customer service like JetBlue and BestBuy (Verizon Wireless puts itself in this category as well) juggle many different channels of social media, including Facebook, Twitter (News - Alert) and Google+, to not only help customers, but to engage them proactively. This requires a small arm of support personnel whose job it is to handle thousands of posts each month, a lot of them via Twitter.

A social media support team’s duties are wide and varied: they answer general questions, troubleshoot equipment issues, address account questions, handle complaints and provide generally helpful information.

“We really want to meet our customers where they are. We want to make sure we are interacting with them and we are there for them,” says Verizon Wireless VP, Midwest Customer Service, Joan Bowyer. “Social media also helps us understand what’s on our customers’ minds, whether it is a concern about a new policy or curiosity over the launch date for the next hot device.’’

The best advice today is for companies to be prepared. Supporting social media is a full-time job that requires specialized skills. For this reason, it belongs in the call center, or at least closely affiliated with the call center. Trying to do it half-heartedly or part-time simply won’t work, and your customers will surely notice.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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