Switching to Social: A Q&A With Conversocial CEO Joshua March

With messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat staking a claim to how consumers communicate on mobile devices, brands are working to get in on the action. Mobile support is becoming a must-have for customer service, but in-app support and service via the mobile Web just aren’t cutting it. Joshua March, CEO at Conversocial, sat down with Smart Customer Service to discuss the evolution of social support and how Sprint is tackling the growing demands of the space.

Smart Customer Service: What are some of biggest trends in social customer service today?

Joshua March: One of the really exciting trends this year is mobile messaging, which is overtaking social networks as a communication channel and, in much of the world, replacing SMS as well. We saw Asia leading the charge with WeChat, which has become an essential hub for interacting, transacting, and getting service from brands. We're now seeing the same thing with Facebook Messenger. We were the first social vendor to go use Facebook Messenger on a live chat channel, and I expect more of the social networking applications to open up in that way.

Why is it important for chat to exist on mobile, not just Web?

Web chat is great in many ways. It can help reduce phone calls because customers are getting real-time resolution, but the problem with Web chat is that agents don't know who the customer is—the customer has to identify him or herself every time, which is quite a hassle. With mobile messaging through Facebook Messenger, agents always know who the customer is. They have access to the customer identity, which is so important, because brands have to make connections to their customer database and the CRM system. Mobile chat is also plugged into phone notifications, so customers don't have to sit there with a chat open. They can have a real-time conversation and then put it away while an agent looks something up.

Do you see any potential behind in-app chat support?

In-app chat really doesn't make a huge amount of sense if you look at the way that people interact on mobile. Just look at Facebook. Even Facebook got rid of their in-app chat and moved it into a separate app. The world of smartphones is evolving rapidly. Let's say you're flying on an airline that you don't normally fly with—do you really want to download their app? Probably not. But if you could just interact with them through Messenger and be able to book, check-in, or contact customer service through that without downloading an app, it makes a lot more sense. Apps also require constantly innovating and updating the UI and the brands that use them are not always tech companies.

Is Facebook dominating the customer support space now that Messenger is business-friendly? Where do other networks, such as Twitter, fit in?

We work closely with Twitter, and in the U.S., Twitter is a much bigger service channel than Facebook is by volume. That changes when we look internationally. There are many places around the world where Facebook is much, much bigger than Twitter. It's too early to say which one will have a bigger impact. What's really important is that both Facebook and Twitter have publically said, "Customer service is the most important use case for brands on our platforms outside of advertising," and they're now investing in it very heavily, both from the consumer experience perspective and from the business perspective. We've already seen Twitter do things like expand the characters on DMs. Customer service is a real strategic priority for them.

Let’s talk about Sprint. Can you tell our readers about the work you're doing with the company?

We've been working together for over a year now, and Sprint is a great partner. They recognize the value and power of doing customer service through social, and they're committed to resolving every problem in the social environment rather than deflecting things away from it. Thanks to the new Businesses on Messenger feature, brands like Sprint are able to manage large-scale customer service operations through Messenger. Recently, they became the first U.S. telecom to go live with live chat through Facebook Messenger, which is really exciting. Sprint is a huge company, but together, we were able to very quickly turn this project around. Obviously for Sprint, every customer is on a smartphone, so it's a really powerful channel through which to offer that live, real-time resolution. We're helping them be where their customers are.

It sounds like Sprint is on top of the social support trend. Are other brands keeping up? Where are companies struggling when it comes to social customer service?

Nearly every company today has recognized that social needs to be in the contact center. Where companies are lacking is on the real implementation and execution of that. Many have a small team of 10 or so agents working on social and those agents are siloed. They're not a part of the wider processes. The technology they're using is probably supplied by the marketing team and it's an all-in-one social marketing tool that isn't really built for service. Most major analyst firms say that satisfaction with the all-in-ones is super low because they just can't deliver on everything.

How can brands be proactive when it comes to social customer service?

There is a huge opportunity to be proactive on a platform like Twitter if a brand is able to monitor how its product name or brand name are being used. One innovative retailer we work with does proactive engagements by giving style advice to users. When this brand sees people tweeting about buying products, they engage with them and provide a real value-adding conversation, which they've measured. They've noticed that it helps drive direct sales and direct revenue as a result.

What’s next for social customer service? Where is it heading?

It's an exciting time. When we started five years ago, social customer service wasn't really a common phrase and we had to bang the drum to explain why social had to be in the contact center. Now the situation is very different. The market is recognizing the importance of social. Sprint, for example, now has a "Message Us" button on their Web site. We're seeing brands make these real, practical changes and as a result, they'll start to see less phone calls.

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