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May 2013

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Q&A: Oracle's JP Saunders on the Hidden Powers of Social Customer Service

As Vice President of Product Strategy for Oracle Customer Experience, JP Saunders is passionate about the role social media can play in helping organizations deliver on their brand promise and grow both top- and bottom-line results.

Historically, marketing organizations have taken the lead in driving organizational social strategy. But Saunders tells us why customer service interactions must be at the heart of any social initiative

Q. Why should customer service be at the forefront of social strategies?
A. Marketing is about effectively communicating the brand principle around your brand promise—but your service organization is where you deliver on that promise. It's the human side of your business, where the relationships are built and strengthened through authentic and transparent interactions.

If you aren't delivering on your brand promise, you're leaving your flanks exposed to negative social comments and flare-ups inside and outside your social domains that can lead to costly customer churn and hurt your business reputation for new acquisitions. Customers don't want be ignored and they don't want lip service. With the right social customer service strategy, you can more effectively respond and contain situations when they arise, and in some instances turn them in your favor.

When you deliver on your brand promise, social customer service enables you to capitalize and monetize investments in those authentic customer interactions and promote brand advocacy. No matter what the buzz, social customer service provides access to a gold mine of rich, relevant customer data that can be leveraged for everything from marketing to product innovation.

Q. How do you measure the success of a social customer service initiative?
A. Social mediums bring with them some new and unique metrics, but you certainly shouldn't limit yourself to just counting “mentions” and “likes.” When you're getting social right, you should be measuring the acceleration rate of the key performance indicators you are using to monitor other business initiatives, such as conversion rate, customer satisfaction, net promoter score, average resolution time, and customer effort score.

Businesses today don't do social initiatives because they are cool. A social strategy should help solve an existing business problem or capitalize on an opportunity. So really, it should come down to the ways your organization already measures success across customer acquisition, retention, and efficiency. You should be clear about the primary and secondary goals and the expected accelerated success rates that each social initiative will drive. This may sound obvious, but many companies miss this point of social—it’s like a super fuel that gives your initiatives a turbo boost to success.

Q. Can social customer service help drive innovation?
A. Absolutely. With trending agile methodologies and cloud release frequencies it can be hard for organizations to keep up. The best ideas move at the speed of social as the collective wisdom of the crowd provides inspiration and insight across your ecosystem. Also, when organizations welcome social customer service content, the wisdom of the community can help keep content fresh.

Q. You have said social customer service should be infused throughout your business processes. Please explain.
A. Social should become central to your business. New processes are too often simply bolted on to existing business practices. To get the accelerated advantages of social, you must infuse it into how you do business today—the people, the processes, the channels, and the systems.

For example, within your frontline customer relationship management systems you should treat your social channels as you do your other channels. They should be blended into a unified agent desktop that handles phone, Web, e-mail, text messaging, and so forth. So when you are listening to conversations that are happening in the social sphere, you can route, respond, and act on them with your existing workflows, as with any other support request.

If you have a frequently asked questions knowledgebase on your support Website so your customers can find answers to common problems, expose it on your corporate Facebook page and add peer-to-peer collaboration capabilities to it. That way, your customers can find help through social channels, and they can help keep the content fresh with what they know—thereby helping other customers.

If you have a support community, your search engine should federate results across all your Website, social, and support domains so your customers have one place to search for answers.

Q. If you could offer organizations just one social customer service best practice, what would it be?
A. Make sure that social becomes part of your cross-channel/omnichannel strategy to ensure consistency across all your customer interactions. Consumers today switch channels throughout a single transaction or engagement, and you have to service them where and when they need it, both before and after the sale. From marketing to sales to support, when you unify your presence and socially infuse content, functionality, processes, and practices, you can accelerate success.

Find out more about Oracle's industry-leading approach to social customer service.
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