Getting Social with Customers
by Susan Hash
Organizations now recognize that they can't afford to ignore the impact social media is having on customers, brand reputation and revenue. Although it's relatively new territory for most companies, there are a few that have implemented innovative approaches that have transformed their business and the corporate culture. Here is a brief look at some of the social media forerunners:

Engaging Customers and Employees
Best Buy has a culture that fosters innovation and encourages experimentation. How else could they have successfully implemented a service strategy like Twelpforce? The social media customer service initiative allows people to pose tech questions to Best Buy employees through Twitter. The Twelpforce is staffed by more than 2,500 Best Buy employees from across operations who volunteer to answer inquiries that come in through the Ask Twelpforce feed.

The company makes available its social media guidelines policy online to employees and customers alike. Staff can access training videos, as well as a robust wiki page filled with tips on how to engage, tone and tools to make them more efficient. Because the program is voluntary, participants tend to be the employees who are the most passionate about helping customers.

Creating Transparency into the Company
Ford Motor Company has been heavily leveraging platforms like Twitter to engage with consumers. But beyond answering consumers' questions, Ford's approach to social media is designed to create transparency into the company by letting consumers know about the process rather than just the outcome.

The company's Fiesta Movement campaign is one example. Ford gave 100 European–spec Fiestas to top “influencers” in the U.S. to drive for six months. The participants were asked to drive the vehicles during their normal daily routines, and to complete special themed missions on a monthly basis, such as visiting locations used in popular films and recreating the scenes, or delivering for Meals on Wheels. Participants documented their experiences on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, and provided the company with feedback on what they liked and didn't like about the car, as well as suggestions for changes, which the company incorporated during the vehicle's production phase.

Connecting with Remote Staff
At State Farm Insurance, social media is not about the technology, it's about people. The insurance provider uses social media tools to improve communication within the company and across its network of 17,000 independent agents. It believes that creating internal social networks allows people to connect with each other and share information and best practices.

The network proved invaluable in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. During the aftermath, there were a large number of State Farm agents and employees that were missing. The company set up an internal blog for staff to help spread the news when individuals were located. Within 48 hours, the company was able to find everybody using the power of the network and the people connecting to it.

Building Customer Communities
PC maker Lenovo began its social media journey in 2006 by listening to the conversations taking place online, watching sites that were the most prominent, tracking the most frequent topics and monitoring customer sentiment. The company was able to identify the “super users” —people who are passionate about a company's products and who enjoy online interaction.

Lenovo reached out to the existing online communities and began to build relationships with the top users, who they involved in discussions leading up to the launch of their own community. Super users were invited to partner with Lenovo and to participate in a leadership role to help ensure the community's success. The approach worked well: Lenovo's online community grew and evolved into a center for influence, and had a positive impact on the company's bottom line. After the community was deployed, the call center saw a 20% decline in call volume for the company’s commercial notebook products across the Americas and Europe.

Inside View — CDC–INFO
by Susan Hash
Imagine if you had to identify detailed content, tailor it to specific audiences, and get it out to your contact center within days or hours to meet skyrocketing call volumes? CDC–INFO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's national contact center, delivers health information to more than a half–million consumers, clinicians and health care providers each year. The main contact center is staffed by approximately 60 full–time CSRs who are grouped into three tiers: 1) Tier 1 reps handle about 85% of the inquiries using prepared responses or call scripts prepared by the CDC's content team; 2) Tier 2 reps have access to a larger content database to respond to inquires not covered by Tier 1; and 3) Tier 3 inquiries are handled by physicians, nurses, epidemiologists and public health professionals. When an event emerges, like Hurricane Katrina or the H1N1 pandemic, the center works with other federal agencies to quickly locate temporary contact center staff from agencies that may be experiencing down time. These “surge staff” receive specialized training only for the specific event so that they can be quickly brought up to speed to handle Tier 1 inquiries on the topic. The tiered approach ensures accuracy and enables the center to efficiently handle extreme volume spikes.
Read the full story here.


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