WebSphere Portal Support Goes on Social
We recently launched IBM WebSphere Portal Support Facebook page. Along with the revamped Twitter handle, we have formally started our social engagement with Portal customers, business partners, and IBM service personnels. The Facebook page can be accessed with URLs http://www.facebook.com/WebSpherePortalSupport and the Twitter handle @PortalSupport can be accessed through URL http://www.twitter.com/PortalSupport
Adopting social media as a means for customer support, some industries may find an easier fit because of their business models, for example tourism, real estate, airlines, retail stores, etc. In a recent report about the social media adoption in airline industry, the number of social conversations (through Twitter) is about the same as those through the traditional voice calls. More and more companies realized that the support through social channels can be a differentiation for competitive advantage, and it can be made real-time, and it is very effective to reduce customer frustration, increase satisfaction, and eventually help sales. Although the resolution may not always be conclusively positive, the consumers are pleased with the acknowledgement on social channel and the effort by the airline support personnels.
For service and support of IT companies, such as IBM, it is a challenge to figure out what can be done for customers in the social space. Due to the complexity of the technical problems in a lot of customer cases, often it’s impractical to resolve technical issues through social media, for example, Twitter communication, due to limited information and data exchanged. WebSphere Portal is a very complicated product set. For example, you may not even be able to describe the problem with 140 characters of a Twitter message. Apparently, social media is not suitable for solving such complicated problems.
We are still hopeful that social media can play important role in customer support. We can take advantage of the social tools to explore the following areas and adapt in the new territories along the way:
- Pushing the latest and greatest updates of the products, and driving the content awareness and sharing: There is a fundamental difference between the traditional RSS feeds and the new social tools, such as Twitter. That is, a dialogue can be initiated in real-time on social channel, but the traditional RSS is normally one-way street, i.e. the information only flows from support to customers. On social media, like Twitter, a question and answer (Q&A) session can be immediately started after a technote is made public, for example, if a customer has a question, or comment, or request. Social space is a much more dynamic environment, support engineers and customers can have a lot of interactions while enjoying the close dialogues.
- Promoting best practices with coaching, mentoring, and learning: In support, we have seen numerous problems which can be easily avoided if the best practices are known to customers. Some human errors can be reduced or prevented. Often the education is mutual, not only support engineers can share their knowledge, but customers can also feedback their experiences and discoveries. Many studies have proved that social media is a deciding drives of readership of online blogs and the increase before and after introducing social media is multi-folds. Based on studies like this, if we consider the support materials as blog-like content, there is no doubt that social media will play the same role as a readership driver.
- Organizing online discussions: it has been proven that online discussions and open mics are effective ways of communicating and exchanging technical information with, transferring knowledge to, and receiving feedback from clients, all at the same time. Twitter chat should not be a stranger to people who are familiar with and active on Twitter. We also often see that Twitter chats can be arranged with on-going conferences to broadcast live information such that people worldwide can get the live presentation even they are not present at the conference floor. Google hangout is a similar tool that can allow live video stream as well. Such kind of online discussions often are centralized with a single topic and multiple questions asked. People who join the chat or hangout can freely express their views and opinions. This format of communication is suitable for political gathering and technical discussions.
- Spontaneous comments, feedback, and Q&As: Sometimes we have questions and need to consult someone for a quick and short discussion. Some of these questions may be very simple, and can be answered in a few minutes, or may be directed to an online resource, such as a technote, or a blog, or a quick fix. Under such circumstances, do we really have to go through complicated support procedure to open a support ticket? The tools like Twitter would be an excellent fit. Also social media can play important roles as a suggestion or feedback box, , or a “contact support” channel. Research reveals that 46% of customers want to solve a problem when they're engaging with a brand on social media, and 39% are looking to give feedback about a product or service.
It has been speculated how we know that our customers are on social media and are willing to communicate through social channels. Our answer is, if we are not getting on social media, like Twitter or Facebook, we may never know the answer. Only when we put ourselves into this space, may we be able to find out. Social media is the first choice to many. We don’t intend to have it to replace any traditional tools. We provide such a service and intend to use it for those customers who are active in social space. If you are not comfortable, you are still welcome to use traditional ways to contact support.
Some reports have found out that the young people between age 14 - 32, more than 75% of them make first attempts to find answers through various online tools, including social media, not the traditional support channels.
Here I would encourage customers who are active on Facebook and Twitter to sign up and voice your concerns and opinions. Follow us on Twitter (@PortalSupport), and like our Facebook page (http://facebook.com/WebSpherePortalSupport). We can also add other social tools in future, as long as there is demand and audience. Let’s enjoy a healthy dialogue and effective conversation on Facebook and Twitter. You will also hear us more about our social commitment through other support channels.
Social Media Customer Service Lessons from the Airline Industryhttp://www.radian6.com/blog/2012/04/social-media-customer-service-lessons-from-the-airline-industry/
How to Tackle Real-Life Social Media Customer Service Obstacles