Gatorade’s Mission Control – A Good First Step

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

ESA/ESOC goes Social Media _10

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I recently came across a very insightful post on Social Support ( regarding Social Media and potential role as a Customer Contact Center.  One of the most recognized brands, Gatorade, has created such a hub for all Social Media communication.  It’s a great start, however, there is long way to go.  The post from Social Support goes on point out some key opportunities that brands need to be aware of when considering the use of Social Media as a Customer Support tool.  Although, I have a few thoughts on the matter myself:

How the Contact Center Evolves: Traditional to Social Media
Social media is not just a ‘new channel’ where existing processes are applied, there are significant changes required in approach or risk public customer backlash, support teams must be aware o f the following changes:

  1. Traditional Channels vs Social Channels: Rather than use traditional communication channels like phone, web, online chat, and email, Social Media support centers will reach customers where they already are –in social networks where they talk to each other.
    Sounds promising but there are still some fundamental questions that need to be answered.  Is the technology there to make it efficient?  Can the conversation be sustained over a long period of time without burning out?   And what is the investment needed to sustain the relationship?
  2. Inbound vs Outbound: Rather than waiting for customers to contact the contact center on phone support, web, or online chat, they are being proactive by listening to customers and responding to them in their own native social channels.  Expect savvy brands to anticipate customers needs by using Social CRM databases to find trends, locate issues before they surface, then contacting customers before their issue surfaces.
    Anticipating customer needs sounds awesome, however, is it truly realistic?  Are we even close to being there?  Amazon does a nice job trying to anticipate my behavior by making recommendations based on past behavior.  I admit I’ve bitten on more than one occasion, however, more than not they will never be able to anticipate my behavior all they can do is try and hopefully hit it right enough times to pay for the effort.
  3. Post Issue vs Real Time Response: Call centers often occur once a customer has had a negative issue, and a frazzled or frustrated customer calls in.  The goal of Social Support is for support agents to contact customers before they call the support center, reducing expensive high touchpoints.
    This would be ideal but far from reality for most brands.  Best Buy recently launched @twelpforce a tech support twitter feed that provides real time solutions to real time problems but with limitations – a 140 character limitation.  This is a great example of how social media can be used to address customer needs with immediacy.  However, I would imagine it didn’t come with a small price tag – money or time.  It is possible and it’s being done, albeit on a very small scale today.
  4. Incident Resolution Scripts vs Lifestyle Content: Call centers have one primary mission and often a secondary: to solve customer woes and get them off the phone as quickly as possible to keep costs low, or flip to up sell opportunities.  The contact agents script has been carefully designed to solve customer issues quickly and efficiently; yet, social media support may involve discussions and true dialog that build relationships with the customers beyond product support.  Expect lifestyle content, news, industry happenings, and even marketing deals to emerge in the same social channels to offer more value for customers.
    True.  Social Media can and will drive the customer relationship to new heights.  However, there is a cost to all this and it’s not money or time; it’s in the execution.  If you get it wrong, brands will pay a huge price and if you get it right; well, that’s the expectation and nothing less – so don’t expect a big hug from your customer.
  5. One-off Incidental Relationships vs Long Term Relationships: Contact center interactions often are short term, with different staff interacting with different customers with no long-term relationship building.  In social media support, a handful of the same folks may participate in the social support efforts with their public persona appearing, this building a known relationship as a human with customers.  See how regulated Wells Fargo does it right with their Ask Wells Fargo Twitter help account.
    There definitely is the potential for a long term relationship but will this medium simply evolve as a replacement to the current traditional channel?  Will customers want a sustained relationship or do they simply want a quick fix in real time.  I’m betting on the latter.  And that’s okay as long as brands address their customer’s issues expeditiously and without fail.
  6. Customer Support Skills vs Social Media Skills:  While we’ve already seen a traditional skill set emerge for contact centers, expect a new skill set will be required to learn: brand monitoring tools, social media workflow, listening tools, social CRM training.  Beyond the tools, they’ll have to learn conversational marketing, conversational support, and have a high degree of gut feeling to determine if an incident will need to be responded to.  Furthermore, they’ll need to quickly ascertain the social influence of customers, as that will impact the triage process, that’s right, certain customers with more Twitter followers will receive priority treatment over others.
    The skills to today’s inbound and outbound telemarketers will change.  However, brands need to be aware of the fact that these individuals need to be skilled at all levels of communication – traditional as well as non-traditional.  The channels cannot be segregated but merged as a hub for customer activity.  Unfortunately, today we see the channels as disparate and this is only going to lead to customer madness.  The consumer is frustrated enough today and we need to be cognoscente of the fact that the phone tree cannot evolve into something more cumbersome and annoying.

The Future: While Strategy Remains Constant, Expect Resurgence Vendors and Measurement
What’s the same?  Both types of centers will focus on issue resolution and customer satisfaction rates.  Both will have dedicated teams.Voices from customers cascade into social channels, and in both cases customers will likely share their experiences to their friends in social channels. Expect that contact centers in India and Philippines to quickly gain steam in this area, cut deals with one of the 145 brand monitoring companies, and offer these pilot programs to their clients.  Lastly, expect that studies emerge that show the cost savings by heading off customer complaints early and responding to them before an incident goes ‘viral’ or reduction in low cost social channels vs higher cost call channels emerge.

This future of having two dedicated teams will not work.  It needs to consist of ‘a team’; one that can respond to any and all inquiries no matter the channel.  It’s true that heading off customer complaints before they actually occur will not only be a cost savings but it may possibly create a few brand ambassadors in the process – and that’s a good thing.














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