Consumers are increasingly taking to Twitter and Facebook to voice their customer service quibbles. It only makes sense that customer relationship management (CRM) software providers would respond in kind by adding social elements to their products. The combination of social media and CRM is often referred to as social CRM.
Zoho today announced free Twitter and Facebook integration for its online customer support software, Zoho Support, Enterprise and Professional Edition editions. The update will allow customer service representatives to engage customers directly via those social channels, in real-time and without leaving the Zoho Support user interface.
The features are part of Zoho's approach to helping organizations navigate shifting customer expectations. For a growing number of consumers, gone are the days of dialing into a call center. Instead, they're enlisting social media, Facebook and Twitter in particular, to ask questions and communicate their satisfaction -- or often, their dissatisfaction -- with companies.
"Today's connected customers expect a higher level of customer support. When they tweet a question to a company, they expect a genuine answer, and they expect it quickly," said Zoho evangelist Raju Vegesna, in a company release.
This not only influences the behavior of today's social-savvy consumers, it is rewriting the customer service rules for businesses.
Bumps on Road to Social CRM
In a recent Enterprise Apps Today article, Ann All reported on the challenges many businesses are encountering by incorporating social media into customer support processes. In short, the results aren't always pretty.
The article quoted Kate Leggett, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, who pointed out social channels like Facebook and Twitter are often managed by marketing or even outsourced to a public relations agency. Some companies manage these channels with what Leggett called an "interim organization that sits halfway between marketing and customer service."
Needless to say, it's not the smoothest way ensure a positive customer experience. Nor is it the most efficient way for organizations to integrate social media into their customer service toolkits.
Said Leggett: "Organizations need to proactively jump on the bandwagon to be able to implement social media channels. Many have done it in a very reactive way that is disconnected from the rest of customer support operations and infrastructure."
Support Gets More Social
Recently Zoho set out to help organizations embrace social as an integral part of their CRM workflows by implementing social features into its flagship CRM offering. Now, the company is focusing on customer-facing support activities.
Accessible via a new social tab within Zoho Support, new options ensure that social monitoring and engagement opportunities are weaved into the customer support experience, according to the company. It offers three main capabilities:
- Monitoring -- This allows users to keep tabs on profiles, pages, hashtags and defined keywords and to gauge sentiment and engage customers.
- Expedited ticket routing and response -- To keep up with the real-time pace of social media networks, this options sets faster SLA and escalation paths for tickets originating from Twitter and Facebook. It also enables agents to reply to public Tweets and Facebook comments from directly within Zoho Support.
- Automated ticket escalation -- Configurable trouble-sensing filter settings that automatically send customized alerts. This feature can help organizations prevent social media backlash by establishing procedures for quickly responding to situations that cross certain tweets-per-minute thresholds.
Facebook and Twitter integration for Zoho Support is available now.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.