Vodafone invests in social to combat customer churn

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Vodafone invests in social to combat customer churn

Seeks an 'omnichannel' view of customers.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia is building an 'omnichannel' view of its customer base to better correlate support requests lodged via multiple customer contact channels.

The telco's social systems manager, Murray Elliott, told attendees of Salesforce's Dreamforce conference today that one of the trends in the "social support" space is for customers to no longer lodge support requests or complaints via a single channel.

"We're dealing with omnichannel," Elliott said. "We're dealing with customers who will use email, social and call through as well, and they may even go onto our community."

The difficulty for large organisations is to marry their CRM records with the identities customers use on social media.

Elliott said VHA could already identify some of its customers based on the different 'handles' they used in channels such as Facebook, Twitter and the telco's own Vodafone Community.

VHA primarily does this via the social persona tab within its Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) system. This allows staff to manually tie social media handles to a customer record.

The telco is now looking at proactive programs to help marry the data.

Elliott said the telco was looking at use of buddy media — a feature of the Salesforce marketing cloud product that can be used to publish interactive content such as quizzes. He said it could be used to "run competitions that allow us to start recognising our customers" on social media platforms.

"We'll even be looking at allowing our customers online to sign in with Facebook or Twitter logins and then be instantly able to recognise who they are as well," he said.

"We're going to be looking at a whole lot of techniques next year to really get better at CRM around social, especially. [But] It's a really difficult area. I think it's one of those areas we will constantly tweak".

One of the endgames VHA wants is to be able to move conversations "into whatever channel we want", meaning — for example — that a conversation that starts on Twitter might not be resolved there.

"Very often if it starts getting sensitive we'll move them to email or private messages," Elliott said.

The initiatives will also have an added benefit for VHA — helping to gain a better understanding of social media users that talk about Vodafone but aren't actually customers.

"It's not easy because we don't always know who people are," Elliott said.

Supporting social

Elliott charted VHA's sharp rise in social media mentions, which came in at about 1800 a month in 2009, but had since ballooned out to 35,000 a month presently.

A team of 35 staff currently vet and respond to those mentions, though given the trend towards omnichannel engagement, VHA is looking to train agents that can work "across [support] queues".

"We've started looking at making what we term 'fluid agents'," Elliott said.

"Once you start dealing with omnichannel, you can allow a set of agents to deal with a customer that's interacting with you on three different channels at the same time."

Fluid agents would be assigned different "permission sets" to other agents, which allowed them to follow conversations across channels.

Elliott noted that social support required a different set of skills compared to supporting customers through more traditional channels, such as the call centre or email.

He said agents typically went through a 12-week on-boarding process for social support, compared to seven weeks for other channels. "Social is extremely public and different to the other channels," Elliott noted.

Turning sentiment around

Elliott used much of his conference address to explore how Salesforce technology underpins the telco's attempt to reverse the damage of its "wipeout" in late 2011 - which saw over half a million customers churn off the network.

Network problems left VHA fielding far more support requests than it could possibly cope with.

"Because there was a buildup in service and support requests, we were absolutely inundated on every channel," he said. "We couldn't cope - we just weren't set up for this."

VHA has been a Salesforce user for nine years, but significantly augmented its implementation in late 2011 and into 2012 following these incidents.

Among the works, the telco connected its "social, online and email channels to Salesforce", installed Radian6 to listen and engage on social channels, installed Service Cloud as a management console and put in several other related systems.

Elliott said the investment is paying off.

"Even today there's people saying some nasty things but also a lot of people saying some great things [on social media]," he said.

"The sentiment is definitely starting to pick up, and our ability to respond and prioritise is just phenomenal now."

Ry Crozier travelled to Dreamforce in San Francisco as a guest of Salesforce.

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