We recently took an in depth look at the various departments that may believe they have an exclusive claim on their company’s social media channels. If you didn’t get a chance to read that blog, the answer is simple: members from each department (PR, marketing, and customer service) should work together to create a comprehensive social media plan.
However, some companies may not have the staff, resources, or time to create a dedicated social media team. After all, creating and implementing detailed social media strategies as well as sifting through countless possible and actual social media interactions is no easy feat!
Fortunately, there is another way to handle your company’s social media without putting it into a specific silo and forgoing the other possible uses for your channels. With ever-increasing technological capabilities, it’s entirely possible to automate at least a significant portion of the work that social media upkeep requires.
Through a combined automation-human approach, your company will be able to save a significant amount of labor that would otherwise be spent trying to keep up with all of the latest interactions, trends, concerns, suggestions, comments, and possible buying signals on social media channels. Think about how lost you can get when browsing through your own social media channels - now imagine three to ten people simultaneously going over the same information and distractions.
Not a pretty picture, right?
Determine which social metrics are meaningful
You may have had several “important” metrics drilled into your head over and over by social media managers, marketing blogs, or a variety of other sources. However, not every company should measure the same metrics because not every company has the same goals regarding social media.
Think about your short term and long term goals stemming from social media. Do you intend to increase your brand awareness, drive customer feedback to a specific social media channel, or increase conversions?
After determining your goals, select metrics that will allow you to measure progress towards your goals from one point in time to another. For instance, if you want to increase conversions on your website, measure how many socially assisted conversions you achieve and then set a goal to increase those conversions at a later date. You can then test messaging, timing, and other elements of your social media posts to nudge your socially assisted conversions towards your goal.
Find the right social tool for your company
Once you’ve determined which metrics are the most important to you and your company, you can begin to search for the correct social media automation tool. There are a plethora of tools available, ranging from basic free scheduling tools to extremely powerful paid tools (like Astute’s SRM solution) that utilize natural language processing and workflow management to properly sort, filter, and route social media interactions. Because you’ll still need collaboration between PR, marketing, and customer service regardless of whether you have a dedicated full time social media team or not, make sure that whichever tool you choose at least has routing or collaboration capabilities.
Be sure to take enough time to perform thorough research on the tool you’ll be using. It should be user friendly and offer responsive customer support (a feature that many people forget about until they need it).
Implement, measure, and revise!
After you’ve decided on your metrics and the automation tool you’ll be using, it’s time to implement your planning. Grant at least one person from your marketing, PR, and customer service departments access to the tool so that they can take part in the collaborative efforts.
After a sufficient amount of time has passed, look to see if you are progressing towards your goals. It’s likely that you’ll see areas that need to be tweaked or replaced entirely to help your rate of progress - don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your existing system and strategy!
Once you’ve found your stride, don’t stop! By continually adjusting your methods, you’ll be able to not only meet your goals but to soar past them.
Need help with your social media automation? Click here to contact a social relationship management expert.
In the words of Willie Nelson, we’re on the road again! Members of the Astute Solutions team are making their way back to New Orleans for the Customer Experience Summit from May 20-22.
Catch us at the event for demos, conversation, and more - and as always, see below for the top five reasons you’ll absolutely want to join in on the fun.
Didn’t get enough Lichisms at the spring SOCAP Symposium this year? Don’t worry - he’s back and ready to keep ‘em coming!
Forget your car charger at home? We have plenty of mini-USB chargers to keep you plugged in and running.
Conferences can involve a whole lot of talking. Take a break from all the small talk by engrossing yourself in one of our jumbo-sized, full color infographics!
Meet Kathi Gurin, our brand new VP of Customer Development - you’ll be glad you did.
- It’s going to be a warm, sunny spring day in New Orleans. No details necessary!
By: Rodney Poling, Principal telephony Analyst, Astute Solutions
In part one of this series, we covered hiring the right employee for the job by asking the right questions immediately followed by setting up performance expectations upon hire. This will let your new hire know you are serious about creating an excellent work environment and hitting company goals. This methodology will ultimately help you retain top performers, as top performers want to work amongst other top performers.
So what’s next?
Let’s move past the new hire process to the stage where agents have several weeks under their belts. What can we do to keep them growing and prospering? This is after the honeymoon stage; the newness of the position has worn off, and your fresh new agent has settled into their position.
Where do we go from here? Informal and structured feedback.
Unstructured methods are just as important if not more so than structured forms of feedback. We have found the best training comes from a mixture of methods including:
- Informal agent shadowing – Having your new agent shadow a senior agent can provide excellent training on proper phone conduct, methods of data inquiries, and case escalation. One possible setback to consider when using this method of training is that this is also a potential opportunity for new agents could pick up bad habits. It is important to screen your senior agents or put them through a brief training prior to shadowing to ensure this doesn’t happen. This will also help with retaining your senior agents as the training is an asset you are providing them with to further their careers.
- Impromptu feedback on cases – Providing impromptu feedback is a great way to show you are paying attention to your agents’ work and that you care about each case. You do not, however, want to make your agents feel like you don’t trust them. The feedback needs to be a mixture of praise and improvements. Think of it as a compliment sandwich; this way your agents will know you have faith in their abilities but also care about improving their performance as well.
- Spend time in the trenches - Walking about the center, listening to agents, and helping them handle cases goes a long way in helping you absorb what is really happening on the floor of the call center. It also sets the expectation that you are actively involved in the operation.
Structured feedback is a way of setting expected standards and goals for your agents. During regular evaluations, it is critical to set expectations for your agents so they can continue to excel and know which areas may need additional work. Key points to structured feedback include:
- Have a formal agent evaluation process,
- Capture examples of agent work during the evaluation period at the beginning and end of the period,
- Record the agent’s work and review it with them,
- Use the same case/interaction evaluation criteria for all agents,
- Survey agents on a routine basis and compile the results,
- Have examples that you can share with agents such as:
i. Proper methods and techniques
ii. Poor methods and techniques
- Set expectations & goals for the next evaluation period, and
- Share the evaluation criteria with your agents.
The ability to track and catalog this type of evaluation is extremely important while executing your philosophy. Be sure to include both qualitative and quantitative feedback in your surveys.
Now that the honeymoon phase is over and you agents are getting settled into their cozy new call center home, some questions may start to arise. How do you keep the relationship from getting stale? How do you keep your agent interested in the day to day? And ultimately, how do you retain your agents?
Don’t fret. This will all be covered in the third and final part of this series.
The 2013 SOCAP Symposium is quickly approaching - and that means you’ll soon be browsing session options, promotional items, and booths
you can’t miss! As you meander through the event next week, we hope you’ll stop by booth #30 to hang out with the Astute Solutions team, enter to win our sweet giveaway, and snag a demo.
If you needed any reason other than “to hang out with the Astute Solutions team,” here are the top 10 reasons why you should make sure that booth #30 is on your radar from April 28-May 1:
- We have a little mad lib surprise for you!
- You can pick up copies of our latest and greatest infographics (and who doesn’t love a good infographic?).
- Not only will the Astute Solutions team be there, but representatives from Bolder Thinking will be at the booth to chat and educate, too!
- Bob Lichi’s Lichi-isms will be available upon request.
- Forget your phone charger? We’ve got you covered.
- You’ll learn about Astute Verbatim, the easiest and most accurate way to organize high call volumes into categories of reason codes.
- You can receive a demonstration of any of Astute Solution’s offerings.
- You’ll be entered to win a Seagate Satellite device!
- You’ll get a $25 Visa gift card just for receiving a demo of Astute Telephony (powered by Bolder Thinking).
- We have a couple of great recommendations for the best dinner spots in New Orleans!
We’ll see you in New Orleans - and don’t forget to stop by booth #30 at SOCAP!
Rodney Poling, Principal telephony Analyst, Astute Solutions
A big part of what we do at Astute Solutions is finely focused on enhancing, reworking, and reinventing the customer or consumer experience. One item that is keenly important to our success is creating a better experience for our customers’ agents. Agent performance management is one of the utmost priorities for anyone within the contact center industry.
In this series of blogs, we’ll discuss key agent performance management methods and improvement tips.
Agent performance management is a process that begins when a potential new agent is interviewed for employment with your firm. It’s a living, breathing part of your organization that occurs throughout each day and never stops until that employee’s last day with the company.
In other words, agent performance management is not a single action, meeting, or activity. It is a continual series of events and interactions that culminate into a process. It’s a much higher level of thinking than simply filling out an employee evaluation every quarter – it’s a way of doing business.
Now that the groundwork is laid for this series, let’s jump into the first of seven building blocks for any Performance Management Philosophy.
1. Start off with performance management in mind
Do you ask prospective new hires about what they liked in their last position? What did they find the most valuable? What inspired them to learn more about their position?
If you begin the relationship with a focus on performance and performance management, it becomes an expectation with in your team. By showing applicants that performance is an integral part of your organization, you’ve eliminated the possibility of any surprises down the road for both your company and the applicant you hire. There’s no room for interpretation when performance is addressed from the very beginning.
Not only will setting expectations help to prevent future performance issues, but it will also show serious applicants that you’re equally serious about creating a pleasant, productive workplace and reaching set goals. Top performers wish to work amongst other top performers – and your applicants are interviewing you and your company just as much as you’re interviewing them.
With an early focus on performance, you’ll distinguish yourself as a highly selective, results-oriented company – which equals a greater volume and broader selection of top notch job applicants for your company!
In next week’s blog post, we’ll move on to the second building block for creating a solid Performance Management Philosophy: when and how to begin new agent evaluations. In the meantime, share your thoughts on creating expectations – how does your company accomplish this?
It's finally starting to feel like spring again - the sun is shining, the air is warming, and companies everywhere are preparing to clean the data in their systems.
While some companies dread the long process of ensuring that all information within a database is current and accurate, others view this activity for what it is: proactive behavior that will lead to a more positive customer experience. We all know that customers hate repeating themselves, but did you know that being made to repeat information was a major reason cited by the 73% of surveyed consumers who said they have left or would leave a company due to poor service?
By removing inconsistencies from database records (as well as clearing inactive users), contact center agents will be much more likely to have the information needed to most completely and efficiently service customers - leading to a happier, more loyal customer base.
Below are three tips to get started on your data spring cleaning.
1. Clean up duplicates
Duplicate records decrease efficiency and increase customer annoyance exponentially. Save your agents time that would be otherwise spent on compiling information between several database records by sorting your records by name and combining any duplicated user information.
By preventing customers from having to repeat information each time they interact wtih your company, you'll provide greater convenience to the custoemr and cut costs for your company.
2. Ensure that forms collect only relevant information
Is your database full of extraneous information? Though having enough information is necessary, gathering too much can overload your agents and database - not to mention discourage your customers from filling out forms or contacting your support respresentatives!
Take a long, hard look at the information you gather about your customers. Is it all necessary? What purpose does each piece of data serve? If you can't answer these questions, it's time to eliminate the data.
3. Research, research, research
There's no way to get around this aspect of data cleansing. Someone (or many someones) must dedicate time to researching each record to ensure accuracy and completion. This can be accomplished through many techniques, including but not limited to:
- calling customers individually,
- verification emails,
- verifying information when customers interact with the contact center,
- verification direct mailings, and/or
- hiring an outside company to verify information.
Regardless of which single technique or combination thereof that your company will employ, be sure to evaluate the labor spent after each cleansing to ensure that it was the most efficient and effective solution for your company.
Don't forget to stick with it!
Data cleansing is an activity that must be repeated from to time. However, not all subsequent bouts of cleansing will be as intensive as the first - as you repeat the process, you'll begin to find the most efficient methods for your company.
How do you plan on cleansing your data this spring?
Consumer affairs guru Neil Yapp makes multitasking look like child’s play. Since Neil was in college, life was a balancing act. Amongst his responsibility as a student, he was also an assistant teacher and held a full time job at a call center, Affina (now HGS).
But Neil never lost stride. He switched schools after spending his first two years at York University, to continue on at Concordia University. This is where he finished his BA in Theology and went directly on to attain his MA in Theology. Though he switched schools, he never paused. He “wanted to make up for lost time” - and that he did.
When college was coming to an end, Neil found he had made a key career contact. His college job with Affina helped him find his true calling, every pun intended. Soon, Neil found his hard work would land him his dream job with Maple Leaf.
I had the pleasure of meeting Neil at our 2013 Customer Conference, Experience the Future. I got to speak with him just a little, but his energy and advocacy for Astute was infectious. So as you could imagine, I was thrilled when the consumer affairs and social media guru agreed to sit down and let me pick his brain!
I hope you enjoy getting to know a little bit more about Astute’s Raving Fans, Neil Yapp as much as I have!
Where did you grow up? “Well, I was born in Jamaica, but prior to starting school, my family moved to Toronto, Canada. I spent most of my life there.”
Why are you so passionate about Maple Leaf? (without hesitation) “Food! But seriously, the food and our values. I always wanted to be with a company that had a good corporate culture. I had a great corporate experience working with Merck and their company culture and was looking for a similar or better type of environment. Before I joined Maple Leaf, I got a little taste of that from them while they were just my client. Then when I joined up with Maple Leaf, I was taken by their culture and everything they do to support their employees.
What do you love about food? “I love meat (haha). Everyone has their comfort food. People can be really adventurous with food, too. We (Maple Leaf) try to develop a foodie culture. We also try to be artful. It brings people together. We bring people together. It’s a great place to be.”
I have heard you are quite the performer. “Where did you hear that?”
(Facebook stalking), Conference conversations… (haha). Do you still perform? “I do brief gigs here and there: singing, MC-ing, and a little theatre.
Where did you find your love for performing? “I was always leading trouble, the ring leader.” (haha) “I have always been very comfortable in front of people and happened to hang out with a group that was into theatre. I just followed suit. It just came naturally.”
Where do you find your drive and focus? “You do what you have to do, ya know? And I have been fortunate enough to love what I do. Even when I was in college, I would work longer hours - not because I had to, but because I loved it.”
How do you stay organized? “Technology helps a lot. You have to be flexible. Mobile is huge. If I don’t do it right away, I make a note to remind myself to do it later.”
What do you do daily to set yourself up for success? “I take 30 minutes to peel through emails. I am also constantly looking at my Blackberry. I’ll be responding to emails via my Blackberry while I wait in line for my coffee. I don’t like to waste time.”
For some, getting through a workday may seem overwhelming, filled with to do lists and random projects falling from the fluorescent-lit lights, but for consumer affairs guru Neil Yapp multitasking is like breathing: it comes naturally.
Written by: Content Marketing Specialist, Kat Rutledge
According to a recent study reported on by Mercury News, nearly half of all companies don’t utilize social media for customer service purposes.
Natalie Petouhoff, a business consultant and lecturer at the UCLA Anderson School of Management who conducted research on the study, had strong words for companies who have chosen not to implement social media as part of their customer service strategies.nearly half of all
“You’re destroying your brand by not responding.”
Though stern, Natalie may not be far off - social media interactions and usage is growing while a staggering 70% of social media messages directed at companies are ignored and left to float out in cyberspace. Companies don’t utilize social media for customer service purposes.
While the Mercury News article discusses other ways in which companies are using social media, it neglects to focus on the one question that really matters: just why haven’t these companies taken the plunge?
To whom does social media belong?
One main reason that companies may be hesitant to provide customer service support over social media is the age-old tug of war between customer support and marketing/PR. Many organizations are a perpetual battlefield between the two departments in regards to just who has the right to manage and maintain social media accounts.
However, this way of approaching the situation is flawed. To ensure an increasingly positive customer experience with each of your brand’s patrons, it’s crucial for teams and departments to work together to consistently meet (and exceed!) customer expectations. By choosing between marketing or providing customer support, your brand will miss out on many opportunities to create raving fans.
To overcome the tug of war regarding social media, create a social media team consisting of members of both the marketing and customer support departments. These representatives will discuss branding needs, unified messaging, and social media policies together - then take them back to their respective departments.
After all, marketing and customer service are increasingly spreading outside of their own departments to other employees!
What if social media opens a floodgate?
Some companies realize the value of utilizing social media from a customer service aspect, but are simply afraid that using it in this way will open a floodgate of social media inquiries, messages, and comments that their brand won’t be able to keep up with.
However, companies in this situation should realize that consumers are already using social media to post about brands and experiences - it’s simply a matter of whether your brand will ignore customer feedback or meet it with gusto.
If the thought of ignoring valuable customer input doesn’t move your company into action, this figure might: studies have shown that consumers spend nearly 30% more with companies with whom they have regular interactions. Time to get tweetin’!
How can companies avoid scattered social media messaging?
It can be difficult for companies to imagine how they’d be able to stay on brand if marketing/PR and customer support were both utilized on their social media channels. Thankfully, this can be solved through solid planning.
By following the advice above and creating a social media team comprised of both marketing/PR and customer support representatives, it’ll give your social media messaging the strong planning and consideration it deserves. Encourage your team to come up with an exact persona for your company that each and every person will reference when posting.
By having a persona to reference when posting, your social media should take on a unified, consistent point of view on all subjects within the social media realm. For added protection, conduct ongoing trainings to make sure that all team members realize what is and is not appropriate to post on company social profiles.
The snow is finally (almost) gone and the birds are beginning to sing again - spring is officially here! Many people use the exciting change in seasons to begin a new project, make a change in their lives, or simply re-energize current efforts.
At Astute Solutions, we believe that April is great time to spring into pro-action in all areas of life - both personal and professional. From refocusing on New Year’s resolutions to creating a more peaceful, productive work environment, we invite you to join us on this quarter-year mission to be more proactive.
Here are a few tips to make pro-action a central mission this spring:
Declutter your workspace
Working on a cluttered, full desk can make even the best workers less productive. Take a look around you - are there extra business cards, incomplete assignments, post-it notes, or other distracting objects on your desk?
Now’s the time to be rid of them.
Remove all non-essential items from your desk and organize them into drawers. By removing incomplete assignments (don’t forget to set calendar alerts for deadlines!), you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand rather than worry about assignments that you haven’t yet finished. The same goes for all those trinkets and random tchotchkes littering your field of vision - they don’t enhance the workspace.
Try to make your desk a source of happiness and inspiration through the items placed upon it. If it doesn’t make you smile or help you focus - ditch it!
Allocate your time realistically
It can be hard to say no to projects or special requests, but saying yes to various propositions throughout your day can sap your energy and make it nearly impossible to complete the core tasks expected of you. Make a list of your core duties along with an accurate estimate of the time they take each day - whatever time is left over is the only time you have to devote to extraneous projects.
When asked to take on additional tasks, you can estimate the time you’ll be expected to invest compared to the time you have remaining after your actual duties. If it exceeds the extra time you have available, just say no or suggest you take on a lesser role in the proposed project.
Plan for disaster
Whether it’s a meeting gone awry or an event spiraling out of control, we’ve all been there. If you don’t plan for disaster, you can guarantee that a crisis will happen at the worst possible time. Plan ahead by creating outlines and hard stop times for meetings or creating alternate plans for events in case something goes wrong (for example, a session leader becomes ill or a speaker blows out) - this can even extend to leaving your house twenty minutes earlier for an important meeting just in case you blow a tire.
By planning ahead, you’ll save yourself the stress of having to fix things on the fly as well as presenting yourself as calm and collected to all those you’ll need to direct and guide when a crisis does happen.
What will you do?
Though important, the three tips above are far from the only actions possible to become more proactive. Take a few moments today to reflect on how you’ll become a more proactive person - you’ll be glad you did!
For years, social media has been the topic of many debates - whether or not it’s a fad, whether or not B2B companies should utilize it, and how to calculate ROI (if any exists).
However, one argument stands out far and above the others as a sore subject for many: which department within a company actually owns social media?
The Marketing Side
A relatively recent study conducted by MarketTools found that only 8% of consumers were satisfied with the way brands use social media – clearly, the status quo needs to change.
Marketing has long held the responsibility of social media. After all, what better way to use targeted social media messaging to reach thousands (or more) consumers?
From targeting very specific demographics for Facebook ads to retargeting campaigns, marketing often holds the power in the digital and social realm. At times, companies whose marketing departments handle social media see wild success and a large influx in sales, but often marketing lacks the relationship-building and public relations nuances necessary to cultivate a strong domain position.
The PR Side
Public relations involves all things media-related - so why shouldn’t social media fall into their court? As we’ve all seen, companies can lose customers, ruin their brand image, and become Internet tales of warning based on a few hours of poor social media interactions. Several major media outlets even have an annual tradition of highlighting the biggest social media disasters!
However, PR departments may end up using language that’s simply too high level for the average consumer - company jargon, superlatives, and broadcasting claims can feel inauthentic and lead to poor social media engagement.
The Customer Support Side
In a CMO Council survey of 1300 consumers, 46% stated that exceptional online customer service is something they expect from companies.
Customer support is all about helping customers with issues, taking in all types of feedback, and providing a type of client advocacy not frequently found in other departments within companies. By taking on the role of a friendly customer touch point as well as protecting the interests of a company, customer support has a clear place within social media channels.
Additionally, customers often take to social media to express frustrations, successes, tribulations, and gratitude regarding the companies they patronize. When customer support representatives and tools are in place on social media, customers tend to be able to find the information and resolutions they’re seeking without needing to post public, negative comments on social media platforms.
In a separate study, 65% of consumers who had socially interacted with companies preferred the social media communications method to the call center while 80% of consumers believed that social media would become the most popular customer support channel! Clearly, a large number of customers now expect customer service via social media – even if companies haven’t caught on yet.
However, if customer support is the only department that handles social media channels, then the public relations and marketing functions no longer exist.
The Social Solution
It’s clear that with all of the arguments for and against various departments’ ownership of social media channels, it can be a difficult decision to make. However, as author/consultant Brian Solis wrote on his blog, “The customer doesn’t see, nor do they care about, who owns social media. They see one company and they simply need an informed and empathetic response.”
Social media teams with representatives from several key departments are crucial to the overall success of any company’s social media efforts. Each member of the team must have access to social media channels so that all functions can be carried out; in order to maintain a uniform voice, social media etiquette and guidelines are essential.
But what if...
Though a comprehensive, well-trained social media team is an excellent solution for social media success, some companies may not have the resources to put together such a labor-intensive team. Interested in how to achieve a balanced social media approach through an alternative method?
Check back next week for the second half of this installment! In the meantime, share your own company’s social media strategies in the comments below.