Social Engagement Breadcrumbs
By Edwin Margulies
Just like Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs behind to find their way out of the forest, modern approaches to Social Engagement for Customer Care let customer care professionals lead their clients out of the woods of the social web. Here are some ideas on how to put these ideas to work for your customers.
What are Social Engagement Breadcrumbs?
Many of us are familiar with the idea of web site breadcrumbs, which are kind of an electronic audit trail of where a customer has been on your web site. Social Engagement Breadcrumbs follow the same logic. But the difference is between the two is significant. First, web site breadcrumbs represent data that is controlled by your domain. They represent a trail of landing page visits left by someone who was in your "house."
Similarly, Social Engagement Breadcrumbs are an electronic audit trail, but they have to be gathered from disparate sources. Social Engagement Breadcrumbs most also be aggregated in a database and later rendered for use and display to a social care agent. For example, hashtags from twitter posts can be used to tag conversations on twitter, and article names or keywords can be used to track blogs. For breadcrumb tracking to be truly useful in the social realm, you have to have the proper infrastructure to gather up conversations from the same "author" across multiple social sources.
Using Breadcrumbs to Make a Social Pie
First, it is important to establish that customers served via social media will ofttimes have multiple social handles or "personas." You can unify these personas in a CRM-like fashion by listing each one in your engagement tool. For example, you'll want to see the customer's twitter handle, blog address and Facebook page.
Second, each customer will have an Author identity so each social post, regardless of origin, can be stored. The level of sophistication on social post history storage is diverse. Some platforms offer no structure or search capability so it's kind of "hunt and peck" for the breadcrumbs. More modern approaches offer everything from a panoramic visual timeline to a simple searchable list like an email package does. Regardless, in order to take advantage of Social Engagement Breadcrumbs, you need a way to store and massage the data no matter what the source.
Third comes collaboration. Breadcrumbs are easy if you're working alone in a silo. But if you are part of a social care team, you're going to want to share the notes you took, outreach information and replies with your peers. How else are you going to keep from stepping on each others' toes? Some case management systems solve this problem readily, and still others allow flexible conversation threading outside of case management. Either way, the ability to cruise through a particular author's posts and tie-in other care professionals' replies is sublime.
Following the Trail
There are best practices when it comes to following Social Engagement Breadcrumbs. These have been figured out by trial and error with social care pioneers and some are borrowed from old school contact center rules. A few examples:
1. Check the Timeframe. Customers will often post on multiple social networks or blogs about the same topic. If you have the ability to sort on a particular customer's posts by time interval or range, by all means use this capability. Why? Because it is easier to pick up on the nuances of customer ask or complaint if you cross-check the references. For example, even though a tweet can include a URL to a longer article, the tweet itself may not have enough information in it to give you the full picture. So also reading a companion post from a blog or FaceBook mention can often fill in the blanks. Naturally, having all of those cross-network posts filtered into one bin makes this feasible.
2. Understand the Sentiment Continuum. You can ascertain sentiment manually by reading each post, or you may be fortunate enough to have an engagement platform that automatically ranks sentiment. Either way, it is a good idea to see if an author's sentiment has changed over time or across disparate social media posts. The benefit of doing this is to "tune in" to the prevailing sentiment, or to be able to understand sentiment trends with the customer. For example, if a person starts with a rant and after a few replies the rant changes to an intelligent exchange - it's good to understand that before you jump in. Ditto when an even-tempered conversation goes hot.
3. He Said She Said. It's considered a best practice to review what your colleagues have said or committed to the customer already. This is easy if you have a CRM-like capability in your social engagement system because you and your fellow care professionals will be sharing the same database. For example, you may notice that a colleague outreached to a customer with a direct message tweet which (in your collective minds) resolved the problem the customer was having. But what if the customer is still complaining and acting like nothing happened? Well, it's possible they did not see the tweet. Or maybe they just want to continue venting. Regardless, you are able to do a follow-up with the customer - even on a different social channel - providing encouragement that you were listening and trying to provide a solution.
Having this collaborative view of the customer is also useful in avoiding problems associated with the old "shopping for a better answer" trick. That's when a customer will contact one agent to get a credit, adjustment, etc. and not like the answer he got and then contact another agent for the same thing in hopes to get a better answer. Your ability to take advantage of Social Engagement Breadcrumbs makes it a lot easier to solve this and many other outreach scenarios.
It is a worthy and beneficial practice to bend over and pick up the Social Engagement Breadcrumbs your customers leave behind. Big clues about trending topics, sentiment and preeminent discussions provide guidance to customer care professionals on how to engage with customers via social channels. By taking advantage of these breadcrumbs, you can improve the effectiveness of your engagements and make more customers happy.