Should I use my help desk software as a social customer service tool?

03 March 2015 by Dionne Lackey

There are some really great help desk software tools out there to manage email and voice customer service. Internally, we use Zendesk and it's a great tool. We use it for email customer service and to provide our support portal. Email ticket tools such as Zendesk, Freskdesk, Zen and Desk.com help you to provide an effective email ticket system, get some really useful statistics on how you are doing, and allow you to effectively manage SLAs as a team. These tools are perfect for managing your email customer service where nobody beyond the support team needs direct access. (We obviously review support tickets as a wider team so we can improve the product, but this is done as a round table not on Zendesk itself).

Adding social customer care capabilities

As social has become more important as an inbound support channel many of these tools have added the ability to add your social channels (primarily Twitter and Facebook) so you can create tickets for social media mentions. It's obviously attractive to provide all your support from one tool. But, as a company using one of these email customer service tools, should you use the Facebook and Twitter capabilities they provide to deliver social customer service? From our experience engaging with hundreds of brands, and seeing the issues they have faced, I don't believe these tools are the most effective platform to deliver exceptional social customer care.

Why? The paradigm shift

Contact centres and help desk vendors have been so used to a traditional ways of managing channels for years. And, there has been a kind of sleep walk into doing the same thing with social. If you think about voice, email and live chat interactions, and SMS, they are all one-to-one. There is generally only the customer on one side, and the contact centre or customer service professional on the other. Nobody else is part of the conversation, and the conversation cannot be viewed externally by prospects, customers or the rest of the market.

When communicating on traditional channels, the contact centre doesn't really need to be plugged into the rest of the business. Marketing isn't generally aware of what the agents in the contact centre are saying on the phone, email or on live chat. It just isn't their concern. If the customer is unhappy they may tell other people, which is bad, but often not a priority (it should be but not always treated as!). Primarily, it's because word-of-mouth negativity is hard to track, but that's a subject for another post.

Poor customer service image

Social conversations are public from the get-go and a game-changer for the type of tools you need to effectively add social as a customer service channel. Clearly there is no longer a one-to-one conversation. What people are saying about your brand on social channels, and how you deal with complaints and issues, will be seen by everybody who can see a specific conversation on Twitter, Facebook, G+, YouTube or LinkedIn. Now marketing and the wider business needs to know and help drive and inform customer engagement, and manage any reputation risks.

The problem of squeezing a square peg into a round hole

Trying to treat social like it is email or voice is much akin to trying to get a square peg into a round hole. You can do it, but it will break things.

Square peg image

These are the peg-related problems with traditional help desk tools you will see:

1. Social is still siloed in different departments This is potentially the largest problem.

The contact centre can reply to posts with no marketing oversight on messaging, and these comments can potentially damage your reputation. This is can be made worse if social customer service vendors only provide a way to respond to customers in a reactive way. We see brands all the time starting to provide customer care on social using these tools then realising that without marketing input, or a way for customer service supervisors to see incoming conversations and trends, more problems are created than solved.

2. All posts to a social page or account are routed to the next agent regardless of relevance

Not everyone reads your Twitter bio to work out which is your general channel and whether you have an account for support. Even brands which have dedicated customer service handles can have a problem with trying to direct the right type of comment to the right agent. Without sufficient automations to route mentions to the right team, and approval workflows so the right replies are going out workload goes up, and service suffers. What you can end up with are missed complaints on your main brand account, and marketing and sales enquiries going to your support account and wasting agent time. Complaints get lost in the noise, response times are longer, and customers don't get resolution and the service they expect!

3. No conversation history to inform replies

Many help desk vendors pick up a mention, then they send you to Facebook (or the relevant platform) to reply, this means there is no customer history stored for future engagement. You need to be able access the full contact history of the person you are talking to on social, be able to search previous conversations, and view all comments in a current conversation. Many tools just fire you a new tweet or Facebook post without being able to see what conversation this relates too, so the interaction starts all over again with different agents each time. Last agent routing on a dedicated social platform can be a big help here.

4. Nearly all help desk software only focuses on Facebook and Twitter

Every brand is different, but let's face it, just focusing on Twitter and Facebook is fine to start with, but what about all the other social channels? Does your customer service tool have these covered? The right platform will let you add all these different social sites, and route into one organised in box to allow you to handle the customer in a consistent way regardless of social site they choose to engage on.

5. There is no way to search beyond direct @mentions

You can't rely on customers to get your handle right on Twitter, or even include it in the first place. So help desk software that doesn't allow you to search outside of official handles will mean you always miss a share of the interactions targeted at you. Also, being able to spot complaints on other social sites such as forums and review sites provides some great insight to fix problems.

There is a balancing act between the convenience of getting your social engagement capabilities from your existing help desk tool, and getting all capabilities you need from a dedicated social platform like Sentiment. Hopefully the points above give you something to consider when you start looking at what is really best for you to deliver your social customer service and improve your customers' experiences with your brand.

If you want to discuss any of the points raised with the team at Sentiment please contact us or try our platform for a risk-free 30-day trial to see for yourself.

Tags: Customer Service, Sentiment Analysis

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