… An Interview with David Armano and RIM’s Social CS Team
Research In Motion (BlackBerry), is one of the sponsors for BlogWorld 2010 and also an Edelman client (my employer), but what you might not know about them is that they are quite active in the social media space, especially when it comes to providing customer care in addition to tips on how BlackBerry fans can get the most of their devices. With over 154k followers on Twitter, the CS (customer service) group regularly engages customers out in the open in a variety of ways. I was able to catch up Michelle Kostya and Baldev Solanki who are two of the architects’ behind the social customer service efforts at BlackBerry.
DA: Blackberry offers support to customers in a variety of ways including online forums. Why did you extend this in places such as Twitter with @blackberryhelp?
MK: Due to the nature of the business, customers usually dealt with their carriers rather than directly with us. This meant that when we launched the forums we were able to truly connect with our customers in a way that wasn’t possible before. All of a sudden we had the ability to gather valuable feedback and work directly with our customers to solve their issues. By being able to help our customers immediately and by showing them neat tips and tricks we were able delight them! But, we recognized that just as not everyone will call to get help, not everyone will visit a forum to ask for help. It became our goal as the Social Media Support team to be where our customers were. Our Digital Marketing counterparts had set up channels on various social channels and customers were asking support questions – it only made sense that we were there to help!
DA: Doesn’t interacting with customers who may be frustrated with your products open the door to public displays of dissatisfaction? How do you manage the risks?
BS: On the contrary, every dissatisfied customer is an opportunity for us to provide a great support experience. The real risk is not engaging. Our goal is to always be professional and follow through. It is a great feeling to delight a frustrated customer and see them become a raving fan.
DA: You decided to take a somewhat personal approach to providing customer care in a social channel by putting the faces of the team behind the account vs. it being the single brand. Why?
MK: Customers service is about a 1:1 conversation. Even when you are talking about traditional customer service it is one person talking to another on the telephone. We wanted our followers to know that the team on Twitter are real people. So they sign their name on each tweet and have their pics up on the background. And, we are taking it offline too! At Blogworld two members of the team will be “live” at the BlackBerry booth providing on-site help and tips!
DA: In the traditional customer care model, success in channels such as call centers is often measured by volume and time per call. What are some of the ways you measure success?
BS: Sometimes defining success measures feels like a quest for the holy social media grail. We tweet a lot of tips so we use retweets as a measure of how useful the content is. In addition we treat positive tweets and thanks as a measure of customer satisfaction. On our forums, Accepted Solutions from the community is a good measure. Remember that some of the standard call centre metrics still apply. Response time and mean time to resolve are definitely things to track.
DA: @blackberryhelp isn’t the only social embassy you’ve built to help your customers get the most out of BlackBerry products. You also have the BlackBerry Help Blog. In the age of Facebook, Twitter and other “shiny objects”, what does a blog get you?
BS: Blogs are about sharing with authenticity. A good enterprise blog can help you really connect deeply with your customers in a meaningful way because the content is not only relevant but insightful and personal. I think most enterprises miss that point. When you do it right, your customers will walk away not only having learned something new but will also feel much more connected to your brand.
MK: Some of the CS staff already wrote how-to posts for Inside BlackBerry Blog and we discovered that these posts were incredibly popular. Our customers wanted to be better (or, the best!) at using their BlackBerry and these posts gave them the info they needed to do this – in a fun and personal way. As with all of the Inside BlackBerry blogs our intent is to get our readers the inside scoop – just focused on the know-how we have on cool tricks, shortcuts and how-to in more than 140 characters.
DA: What are some of the most common requests you get from BlackBerry users? Do your responses vary?
MK: There isn’t really a “typical” request coming to our @BlackBerryhelp team. They get 800 tweets a day from our 155,000+ followers and they range from technical questions to feature requests and from questions about release dates to conversational tweets asking the team how they are doing. So, yes our responses definitely vary although we do have some typical answers for more common requests. Plus, we have a huge library of helpful tips and tricks that we share throughout the day.
DA: What is the one piece of advice you would give to other major brands looking to help their customers leveraging social media?
BS: Don’t succumb to “Cheshire Cat Syndrome” (remember how confused Alice in Wonderland was in choosing a path?). Be careful of starting down the path of social media customer support if you don’t know where you want to end up. Define objectives first, and then try a pilot to limit the risk. A lesson learned from the trenches – most of the time in Social Media land, when you open a door, it’s really hard to shut.
MK: I would say the biggest piece of advice I have is that you need to recognize that customers don’t care what department you are from when they are talking to you via a social channel. A customer is just as likely to ask a technical support question, as they are to provide you with product feature requests, or post they are looking for a job at the company! No matter who “owns” the channel internally– you need a way to route feedback and respond when necessary to your customers. Participation in social channels means breaking down silos inside your business.
Michelle, Baldev, Thank you both for your time and insights. If you’re reading this and attending BlogWorld (and have a BlackBerry device), feel free to bring it to the BlackBerry booth to receive complimentary tips and general assistance from members of their customer service team.