Social is only a shadow of what it can be without knowledge management

There have been a number of news stories recently about high levels of customer dissatisfaction with services, the willingness of customers to vent their frustration online, and the growing appetite for the use of social media for customer service.

The global adoption of social networking has gained momentum and more and more consumers now turn to social communities for information and advice.

With over 500 million users of social networks such as Facebook, and over 1.5 million pieces of content shared on Facebook every day it is by far the greatest marketing arena online and businesses are desperate to harness this but whilst marketers already recognise the importance of social media to their success, it is time customer support organisations woke up to this reality.

Customers now consume information in different ways and the majority of people believe businesses should not only have a presence in social media but they should be interacting with their customers in these networks. This highlights the need for Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to become part of the DNA of the customer service cycle.

Social CRM is an opportunity for organisations to be part of pure pier-to-pier interaction with customers about the real issues they need to resolve, as and when they arise.

The huge growth in the mobile only internet population and ability for consumers to update their social media profiles anytime, anywhere has huge implications for customer services and means businesses need to focus on increasing dialogue with their customers, fostering the sharing of customer knowledge and responding with appropriate answers to the issues customers face in the manner most convenient to them.

Creating a competency to effectively use social media as a support channel, however, requires fundamental retooling of systems and processes. With 25% of search results for the world’s top 20 largest brands now linking to user generated content it is crucial for businesses to migrate from a business centric approach where customers call them for answers to a customer centric one where support answers are created in the social community with or without the blessing of the company.

Customers are becoming the experts in the products and services they use as they become more savvy and outspoken about their experiences and businesses need to focus on the knowledge and data that can be gleaned from monitoring, understanding and analysing customer conversations in social networks carefully. This includes networks outside the boundaries of an organisation such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo and MySpace.

Many businesses have jumped on the social networking bandwagon and have rushed into implementing technologies such as Lithium which allow them to monitor customer feedback and queries within their organisation but are finding they have a huge amount of knowledge from these technologies and do not have the solutions in place to make use of that knowledge.

Few companies are set up to both monitor AND harness the insights and value of social conversations. It is this second step in harnessing social knowledge that underpins the success of using social communities to benefit the bottom line.

A social media strategy that is not supported by a knowledge strategy to harness social conversations and feed answers back into social conversations will fall short of impacting customer satisfaction levels and helping companies cost-effectively scale their support organisation. This may be the reason for such high levels of customer dissatisfaction.

It is vital for customer support experts to have the policies in place to be able to use the knowledge and expertise from their customers. It is also crucial for businesses to be able to manage the information that is being dissipated through these social networks. Very often incorrect of damaging information can snowball through these networks if an organisation is not ready to respond and disseminate the correct answers.

Social is only a shadow of what it can be without knowledge management, without which organisations can’t manage their customer interactions appropriately but just simple facilitate them. Businesses that can utilise knowledge appropriately will be able to take advantage of their savvy customers and feed that expertise back into their organisations for other customers to benefit from.

Consequently rather than paying to train staff to become experts in a particular product, businesses will be able to take advantage of their customers knowledge, and with recent research finding the cost of solving a customer query online on just $0.06 on average, compared to an average cost of $162 for dealing with a customer query over the telephone Social CRM can offer businesses huge return on their investment.

I expect to see more organisations looking towards their customers in the future, Social CRM is something that is proliferating through the business world right now and it’s vital for business to understand the knowledge to be able to deliver better answers and information to their customers, the experts.

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Christopher Hall has over 20 years of business experience as a senior marketing and product strategy professional in the enterprise software industry. Prior to joining InQuira, Christopher was the VP in charge of the global product strategy initiatives at KANA Software. Earlier, Christopher was VP of Worldwide Marketing for Chordiant, where he pioneered the company’s customer experience (Cx) branding, and he was Senior Director of Product Management for Silknet Software, which launched a successful IPO in 1999.