Adapted from photo by Robin Higgins, CC0 Creative Commons

In Altimeter’s report on the Customer Service Cloud, principal analyst Charlene Li makes the point that customers see an organization’s brand as a single, monolithic entity and get frustrated when they are forced to repeat the same issue in multiple places, such as on a phone call and on the company’s contact page, for instance.

Frustrated customers go away. Li’s report underscores the importance for organizations to thoughtfully reinvent how customer service is organized, to make it more relevant and to make information sharing more ubiquitous across the various departments of an organization.

Online communities in the form of dedicated online platforms (by that I mean not Facebook or LinkedIn Groups) are a prime place where these interactions can be brought together.

From an internal community for employees, information about a problem or service issue can be shared seamlessly across departments.

From an external community perspective, customers can be directed from various online social outposts like Twitter or Facebook, into a customer-facing community where commonly encountered issues can be addressed, where company and peer-based help can get involved, and where ideas for product or process improvement can be suggested.

According to IDC’s forecast for online communities: “Alongside rapidly shifting expectations, communities have become a broker between business networks and will only continue to contribute more value to organizations trying to develop ongoing relationships.”

A problem (and opportunity) with online communities, at present, is that they are only now becoming more deeply integrated with the rest of the organization. They, too, have been sitting in their own silos and the major social community platform vendors are only beginning to explore the myriad integrations that are possible with Sales and Customer Service CRM systems, with marketing automation, with inventory, with social media analytics, and back end data warehouses. Big Data exists and is being leveraged to derive insights, but the social platform promises to be the means for collecting and surfacing that data in meaningful ways to both employees and consumers. IOT technologies will only magnify the amount of data available, multiplying the opportunity.

Moving data away from the being the sole domain of data scientists is the key. Democratizing data by finding easier ways to surface and visualize it will lead to the next generation of company.


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