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Social Media Support
Several times in my career I have had the pleasure of working with people who I already knew and respected in the industry. Today I’m bringing you a blog interview with TSIA’s newest research director, Tim Lopez, whom many of you may already know from his work at Symantec, as well as his many presentations at Technology & Services World. Tim has been one of my go-to experts on social media and social support, and we are thrilled to have him on board at TSIA as part of the Support Services research team. For those of you who haven’t had an opportunity to meet Tim already, here is a blog interview to get you up to speed on his experience and thought leadership.
John Ragsdale: Tim, welcome aboard TSIA, and thanks for agreeing to sit down with me for this interview.
Tim Lopez: Thank you, I’m excited to be here, and happy to spend some time talking social.
JR: You have a been a TSIA member for many years. Can you tell us a bit about your background?
TL: When I started at Symantec, I was pretty confident that I would spend my career as an engineer. I worked for a few years in engineering as a beta test coordinator, and eventually moved on to community management for our community forums. The constant in both positions were the people–our customers. Once I came to the realization that the customers were the best part of my job, I started looking for new ways to take care of our customers and give them the best experience. It didn’t take long before I realized the huge opportunity that social media had for customer service.
After checking and seeing that customer service over social media was not yet being done at Symantec, I took it upon myself to start replying to customers immediately. Diving in head-first was the best thing I could have done. This allowed me to constantly revisit my methodology and shift my strategy to whatever had the most positive outcome. I started breaking customer service down to a science. My mind was that of an engineer, but my heart was focused on the customer. Customers responded extremely positively to me helping them over social media, and it didn’t take long for the Support team, and the rest of the company, to see what was happening.
It didn’t take long before I realized the huge opportunity that social media had for customer service.
After a re-org, I found myself moved over to the Support group. From there, I was able to grow the Social Media Support team from my single effort to a large organization spanning 4 countries, helping customers in many languages, and drove our response time from 24 hours to under 4 minutes. I was able to achieve this through simplified processes, focusing on the needs of the social support representatives, and streamlining our workflow. Creating wonderful customer service experiences is at the core of my passion, and I’m excited to be able to help others create wonderful experiences as well.
JR: I first met you when you submitted an abstract to speak at TSW on social media support, and you had a standing room only crowd and received terrific feedback. Since then you’ve presented at TSW multiple times, and participated in one of our Virtual Summits on social support. What has your experience been presenting to TSIA members?
TL: I love presenting at TSW. I’ve had the honor of speaking at many conferences over the last several years, but TSW attendees have always been the most engaging and have provided the best feedback. TSW brings together many leaders from across the technology industry, and it’s been great to be able to contribute and collaborate with some of the best technology companies out there. Presenting at the Virtual Summit was no different. I still had the same high level of engagement and feedback that I would get from speaking at TSW. Those positive experiences are why I didn’t think twice about joining TSIA.
TSW brings together many leaders from across the technology industry, and it’s been great to be able to contribute and collaborate with some of the best technology companies out there.
JR: Let’s talk social. According to the benchmark, less than 1% of support cases for our B2B members come from social channels. Yet social support continues to be one of the most requested topics for TSW. Why do you think B2B companies are so fascinated by social?
TL: I believe that B2B companies can see that social support will continue to grow and they would like to be ahead of the game when the time comes for them to start engaging. Consumer companies realized awhile back that if they don’t respond to customers on social media, someone else will (and they may not like the response). It’s extremely important to be a part of that conversation and provide customers with accurate and insightful information as quickly as possible. There’s quite a few things that can be done to increase social support volume, such as keyword listening, streamlining response processes, and optimizing agent efficiency. I’m excited to be able to share some of those things in the coming months.
JR: One of the best practices I learned from you is that social support techs require different skills than their phone counterparts. What are some of the traits that you look for in a social media support employee, and do you have any hints on screening/interviewing for those skills?
TL: Social media is a very public channel, and anything you post can go viral in an instant. It’s important to find people who have good common sense, can work well under pressure, and have genuine care for the customer. These people need to be blessed not only by your support department, but trusted by your PR department. Achieving buy-in from PR may be difficult, so include them in the screening process and show them how you plan to select your social support representatives. Interviewing for customer focus is critical, since it’s easier to train someone on technical support than customer service. Also, give your candidates an assessment by having them craft responses to some of the most complex inquiries that you may receive. This will help you identify characteristics such as customer focus, demeanor, technical knowledge, as well as identify any red flags, such as agents who made inaccurate assumptions.
Social media is a very public channel, and anything you post can go viral in an instant. It’s important to find people who have good common sense, can work well under pressure, and have genuine care for the customer.
JR: You once showed some very profanity-laced Tweets that your team had to respond to. Do you find customers are surprised to hear from the corporate support team after sending a flaming Tweet? How do you talk them off the ledge?
TL: Customers are definitely surprised when their harsh social media posts are responded to. What surprises them even more (and starts to restore that relationship) is when you are able to convey to the customer that you’re listening to them and that you’ll do everything in your power to make it right. You do this by putting yourself in your customers shoes. More often than not, we hear organizations talk about the power of empathy. Having real genuine empathy for customers not only empowers your agents and gives them a greater view of their customer impact, but it also restores customer confidence.
Utilizing these videos in social media is a great way to deliver content to customers to give them the answer while reducing both agent and customer effort.
JR: Currently, 41% of members are doing some level of support via Twitter, and 42% are offering a dedicated YouTube channel for how to and troubleshooting videos. How important do you think it is to have a presence on YouTube?
TL: Because social media posts (especially posts on Twitter) are usually brief, they don’t get optimized well for SEO (search engine optimization). Supplementing with YouTube content is extremely valuable because not only are you putting out content to help drive down contact for top drivers, but you’re also putting out easy-to-consume information that is typically optimized for SEO. Utilizing these videos in social media is a great way to deliver content to customers to give them the answer while reducing both agent and customer effort.
JR: While actual social media support may still be new for some companies, over half of members, 59%, are monitoring social channels to understand what customers are saying about products and processes. What would you say to other 41%?
TL: Just because you don’t hear the conversation doesn’t mean it’s not taking place. Perform a search on Twitter or Facebook for your brand name and see what results you have. Can’t find anything negative? Throw in the words “problem” or “issue”. Ignoring these customers can be very damaging, and we shouldn’t be comfortable missing out on the opportunity to drive change through positive engagement. I mentioned earlier that if you don’t reach out to them, someone else may. It could end up being a competitor that reaches out to your customer before you do and convinces them to switch over.
JR: Now that you are on board at TSIA, I know a lot of members will be wanting to speak with you about starting a Social Media Support team. What advice can you give companies starting to respond via Twitter for the first time?
TL: Respond quickly and effectively. Keep the conversation on channel (don’t have them call or email you). Most importantly, keep the customer your primary focus.
JR: Tim, it has been a pleasure chatting with you, and I know TSIA members will be excited to have you as a resource. Once you are settled, can we expect some new research reports on social best practices?
TL: I look forward to putting my experience to work to help TSIA members with social media support, so yes, you can definitely expect some new content around social support in the next few months, and I’ll be presenting on the topic at TSW Las Vegas in October. I look forward to seeing and engaging with members in person, and in the meantime, if you have questions, submit an inquiry and I’ll do my best to help.
Post Date: July 12, 2018
John Ragsdale is a distinguished researcher and the vice president of technology ecosystems for TSIA. His area of expertise is in creating strategies for improving the service operations and overall customer experience by leveraging innovative technology. John works closely with TSIA’s partner ecosystem, identifying leading and emerging technology vendors whose products help solve the key business challenges faced by TSIA members. He is also author of the book, Lessons Unlearned, which chronicles his 25-year career inside the customer service industry.
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