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Service management and social media



By Alastair Corbett


I think I’m safe in saying that pretty much all of us have at some time been frustrated by customer service phone lines that insist on you exercising your touch-tone keypad for the privilege of being subjected to dreadful hold music. Happily there are now increasing numbers of channels appearing which we can use to get help.


The use of direct online communications provides the customer with choice, and, if executed well, will enable the organisation to deliver superior service management. I’d like to break this down in to three approaches to service or helpdesk provision:

  • Direct, one-to-one feedback
  • Peer-to-peer and self-help services
  • Pro-active monitoring and action

Direct, one-to-one feedback

This approach directly parallels telephone call centres where the customer, whether external or internal, makes a call to the helpdesk or to customer services and is handled there and then.


The same approach can be taken with email enquiries, online chat and social media. We all have to recognise that increasing numbers of people expect to be able to get help via social media channels.


The Spanish airline Iberia is a good example of a company getting online communications right. They use a human-to-human approach rather than automated replies, and tailor their responses so that language and culture fit with their customers.


This is an example of a company that understands that reputation can be both made and damaged very quickly online. Another example of this is the mobile network operator O2.


In July 2012, O2 experienced network problems and the storm of frustration came out quickly on Twitter. However, instead of responding with the common corporate platitudes, O2 chose to use a very human, even humorous tone in reply to each tweet.


Peer-to-peer and self-help services

Another source of help is via the “somebody you know” approach. If you know that your colleague Bob has managed to fix an IT problem then it really is going to be quicker to just ask him than to log a call with the helpdesk, wait until they respond …


The “somebody you know” approach works in the wider world too. In the broad sense, your favourite search engine will often come up with the answer to your question, but if you need advice or help with a particular company’s product, then there could be an alternative.


Sears Holdings in the US has launched a service called Get Advice. This offers customers a way to access the knowledge of not only Sears experts but also the wider community of consumers. The types of questions people ask are akin to “what type of washing machine would be good for a family of six?”


This crowd-sourcing enables consumers to find expertise and practical advice from “real” people who have personal experience of products available.


HP Service Anywhere addresses both the direct and peer-to-peer service approaches. By managing help desk responses centrally the organisation can build a picture of what queries are coming up most frequently through “hot topic analysis”. This enables the help desk to build new self-help articles or to identify a bigger problem that should be investigated. In turn, this linkage between direct feedback and self-help means that customers and users get faster answers at a lower cost to the business.


Monitoring and being pro-active

This is the most exciting area. Rather than waiting until somebody gets in touch via whatever channel, the idea here is to constantly monitor customer “noise” online.


Using Big Data techniques it is possible to spot trends in this noise. While this kind of approach has been around for a while, used in Public Relations for reputation management, its use elsewhere is in its infancy. What we are trying to identify here is what’s being talked about right now that has some bearing on our own business.


Sickweather is a great example of the principals involved. They scan social networks for people talking about illness, then show the information in the form of a sickness forecast map.


Analysis of social media chatter can effectively be used in planning for market expansion and product development. Comments left in social media by today’s consumers are much less biased in comparison with traditional surveys and focus groups. This offers an honest view of what’s not so great about a product, and a source of “if only it could do this…” comments.


I believe that the most important aspect is where this analysis can be used in service management. The Telegraph recently reported on a system which is intended to provide early information about utility supply problems.

With traditional systems there is a significant delay before the utility company is aware of a problem, and it can be hours before they are able to locate the issue and deal with it. The social media analysis locates posts such as those using #poweroutage, and then alerts the company immediately.


Clearly this approach can be adapted for many kinds of organisations, enabling them to resolve problems much sooner, thereby keeping customers happy while protecting revenue streams.


The UK’s Metropolitan Police have been using HP Autonomy to gain early insight into relevant issues and a more accurate analysis of social media sentiment, leading to better intelligence and crime investigation. During the London Olympics the system analysed over 2 million tweets per day alone. While this volume is low in the big scheme of Twitter, manual analysis would be impractical.


Integrated service management

With reputation so easily knocked through storms of negative comments on social media it is ever more important to provide customers with great service. As we have seen, even when things go wrong it is possible to limit the damage and even enhance reputation through careful (human) responses to what’s being said.


With systems such as those from HP, it’s possible to build a cost-effective and integrated service that both learns from customers’ questions and the answers, while giving a broader insight through analysis of social media chatter.


How’s your customer service?

Do you have a social media strategy for service management and customer support?


Is your approach machine or human-led?


How is your online reputation?


You might also be interested in:


HP’s Big Data & Analytics Software


HP’s Social Analytics Services


AlastairCorbett.jpgAlastair Corbett leads HP’s UK&I Software Business Unit and has responsibility for its strategy, the promotion and selling of the IT Performance Suite and related services. Prior to this role, Alastair was responsible for defining the new sales strategy and go-to Market models for Worldwide Software Sales, and before that, he successfully led the Worldwide Services Operations team for HP Software. Alastair joined HP from Peregrine as a result of the acquisition in 2005, where he held the role of VP International Operations and was responsible for all Finance and Operations activities in EMEA and APJ. He also led the integration activity for EMEA, as well as leading the Sales Operations function.




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