Software Helps Companies Socialize Customer Service

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Social CRM is becoming a buzzword, despite the fact that customers still value traditional customer service more than connecting with companies on social channels like Facebook and Twitter. After talking to customers of nine companies that have made serious investments in CRM, including social CRM, Gartner analyst Michael Maoz found traditional customer-service excellence trumps social anything. Yet companies shouldn't ignore social channels, Maoz wrote in a recent blog post, because social conversations can help companies identify and solve customer-service problems.


Companies that ignore social channels risk customers airing their frustrations in these very public forums. A growing number of companies appear to realize this, with 26 percent of respondents to a recent Digitial Brand Expressions survey saying they include customer service in their social media communications plans. While that number lags the 94 percent who include marketing in their plans, it does lead other areas including human resources.


So it's not surprising to see products like Parature for Facebook, which software company Parature promises will help companies enhance their social customer-service efforts. Among other functions, it monitors wall posts for pre-defined keywords. As Mashable reports, it includes four modules: Find an Answer, a sub-tab in the support section where customers can search for answers to their quesions; Ask a Question, another venue for submitting questions; Chat with Live Agent, which customers can use to initiate live conversations with a customer-service representative; and Monitor, an admin-only section where reps can view tickets and flagged wall posts.


Parature's first client for the product is Rosetta Stone, the maker of instructional language software.


Reiterating Maoz's findings, I think the most important thing is for companies to remember that social support is only part of the bigger customer-serivce picture. In a post from September, I shared some advice from the Altimeter Group's Jeremiah Owyang that made this same point.


One of his suggestions was to take advantage of social CRM tools like Salesforce.com's Service Cloud and Jive's Market Engagement. He also predicted: "Expect a rash of social CRM features, companies and solutions to appear that connect existing call systems, knowledge boards, and customer databases with the public Web -- closing the gap that was once the firewall." Parature is part of the trend.