Next week is SugarCon in San Francisco. As the name suggests, it is a conference run by SugarCRM which brings together IT professionals, third-party developers, and partners to talk about customer relationship management. For three days, a whole lot of people will be talking about customers and how to use technology to interact with them in a more meaningful manner. Social enterprise technology will be a big part of that discussion.
The social enterprise is supposed to facilitate communication and collaboration. Most organizations want to be able to maintain more intimate contacts with their customers. It seems natural that customer service would benefit from the application of social enterprise technology. So, doesn't customer service seem to have the same priority as efficiency and cost control when it comes to social enterprise strategy? Soon to be published research by ESG - ESG Social Adoption Trends Survey 2012 - suggests that customer service ranks at the bottom of both the goals and benefits of social enterprise deployments.
Source: ESG Social Adoptions Trends Survey, to be published May 2012.
Two thoughts come to mind immediately. The first thought is that organizations really don't care much about their customers. Organizational efficiency and productivity which drive more money to the bottom line are much more important than pesky customers. That obviously can't be the case. Without customers, companies go out of business. Even companies that are bad at dealing with customers at least say they want to provide better service.
The second idea, and a much more likely one, is that we don't realize how social enterprise technology can affect customer service. There is a tendency to think about customer service in its most basic form - direct social communication with a customer. That's important but there is so much more that goes into a good customer experience. For example, the ability to generate a quality response to a customer problem is just as important as allowing customers different ways to communicate with an organization. Enhancing these processes is where social enterprise tools can really make a difference. File sharing facilitates creating proposals quickly, providing customers with a faster response. Group chat allows front line customer service to bring experts to bear on a customer problem immediately, supplying a better and faster resolution to a problem. By using social tools to augment and magnify internal processes aimed at problem resolution and responsiveness to customers, organizations can greatly improve customer service.
While there is a tendency to think that using social tools to boost customer service means broader communication channels, that's only a small part of the total customer experience. Improving internal collaboration will help service customers better by getting them better answers to problems more quickly.