Can You Trust Your B2C Social Vendor with Real Customer Interactions?

We're in an era where many social media management vendors want to be your end-to-end experience platform. Where just a couple of years ago these companies offered point solutions delivering specific use cases, like community management, social campaigns, or content management, they now claim they can be trusted with your entire digital experience. Can they?

Never mind that digital experience is a term so broad it encompasses myriad touchpoints over just as many channels. But suppose a vendor was to tell you, "Why, yes, we were built for community management, but now we've made some acquisitions and connected to APIs for some other apps, so please hand us more control of your customer relationships." How are you to react? Well, that depends what you are looking for.

Are you focused on broad, shallow engagement or deep 1:1 engagement?

Customer engagement can be defined in any number of ways, but the truth is that some engagements are shallow and others run deeper. And there are as many definitions for customer engagement as there are for digital experience. In conventional social media management, an engagement can be as simple as a like on a comment. But these shallow engagements, whether likes or two-word responses or emojis, generally don't impact your bottom line. That's why Forrester Research titled a landmark B2C social report "Every [brand] uses social, few know if it works."

The customer interactions that tend to move the needle are much deeper, and they shouldn't be handled by just any vendor with an API. Customers want to transact with you, they want to solve a problem they have with you, some even want to leave you for your competitor. How will your conventional social media management provider support you in these interactions? Typically, if they pick up on your customer's intent at all, they direct them to reach out to your company on a totally different channel, somewhere else where they can complete purchasing a product or solving a complex inquiry, for example. It's not a great experience to ask customers to stop the conversation and start over on another channel, but there's a reason why they do it.

Simply put, conventional social media management providers don't have the enterprise-grade routing, automation, agent tools, and analytics to enable resolution at enterprise scale. They can help you drop emojis into a conversation, but they can't use those conversations to help someone make a buying decision and transact with your company or figure out why your company disappointed a customer and make it right. And even if the conventional social media management solution is integrated with other channels like SMS, WhatsApp, your app, or your website, their response capabilities don't change. The interactions are routed to the same console suited for shallow engagement, without all the features necessary to scale in-depth consumer interaction.

How consequential is your customer experience?

Of course, there's money to be saved using shallow tooling around routing and analytics, untested agent tools and automations, and a buggy user experience. But one must also consider the tradeoffs. Without reliable, well-designed automations to support your agents, your best people won't have the bandwidth to take on more complex cases. Without dynamic routing capabilities to send customers to the right bot or agent, you'll be wasting their valuable time and frustrating them. And without in-depth analytics and reporting tools to figure out why customer satisfaction and demonstrable ROI are low and agent attrition is high, you'll be left guessing when your management asks tough questions.

Untested providers can also get you into hot water when it comes to data privacy and security issues. In a world where your customer interactions are increasingly under scrutiny, and where every social post can go viral, it's imperative to consider the risk of using a provider that claims to have graduated overnight from likes and emojis to deep customer engagement at scale.

These same providers often can't answer many key questions around strategy and process: How will they make agents more efficient and how do they intend to incorporate automation in agent processes? Do they have experience implementing transformational automation programs and the tools for you to build and optimize bots? And, how much contact center expertise do they have in-house to support your digital engagement programs?

There's a reason many of these vendors offer cheap customer interaction capabilities and are known better for broader social media management plays. They're playing with shallow equipment in a game that requires depth. Real customer engagement that actually drives revenue, efficiency, and measurable ROI is in a different league entirely.

Brian Donnelly is senior director of product marketing at LivePerson.