Why Social Media is the New Customer Service Channel (Part 2)

This is the second in a series of posts about protecting the brand by providing customer service in social media. The first can be found here. The third can be found here.

On November 28th David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, had a poor experience with Adobe support. After not receiving satisfactory service, he tweeted to his 1.2 million followers about his poor experience 7 times, eventually questioning the overall brand of Adobe. Within a day, he heard back from Adobe and his issue was resolved, but for 24 hours, 1.2 million people heard a trusted person badmouth Adobe. Not a good day for the brand.


As David’s example above shows, social media networks are enabling customers to act bigger, engage faster, and be better organized.  For decades, consumers have run into problems with purchased products or services from companies. In the past, complaining to a company took some time and thought. First there was complaining in person, then by letter, and with the option of the telephone, these complaints turned to call centers. As the Internet grew in popularity, call centers became contact centers with the addition of e-mail and chat channels of communication. As new forms of communication are developed and adopted, consumers use them to complain to companies. Customers want to engage with brands on their terms; their channels. They do not think in terms of discreet channels when interacting with companies. They make no delineation between contacting the company via phone, email, chat, or social. They likely do not even differentiate between sales, support, or marketing; they simply see the larger brand.

People prefer sharing their frustration with the online network rather than going directly to a company. They may believe that the company is more likely to respond to a complaint once it is in the public domain, and if so, those companies need to consider this as a failure of their non-social-media support channels. The network effect increases the downside of getting service wrong and the upside of getting it right. When service is delivered well, social media users will herald it; and when the service is poor, they will do the same. Additionally, companies need to understand that social media is much more than just a marketing vehicle. Of the actionable tweets and posts a company receives, 80% are related to service, with only 20% being about marketing (source). While sales and marketing have been the promise of social media, service is the actual delivery.

According to Gartner Inc., by 2014, organizations that ignore their customers on social media will have the same negative perceptions companies experience today when they ignore customer’s minimal expectations of support via email and phone. In fact, not only are 25% of customers likely to share a positive experience, but 65% will share a negative one (source). Furthermore, responding to questions about products through social media will become table stakes for marketing departments. According to Carole Rozwell of Gartner, the failure of a company to respond to a social media user can lead to a 15% increase in the brand’s churn rate (source). This gives further evidence that companies must put a social media monitoring program in
place or risk financial losses.

While social networks may not be as real-time as a voice call, users do expect a relatively quick response. Laura Bassett, Marketing Director at Avaya says that “Twitter users expect a response within 5 minutes when complaining about a brand”. While most companies won’t be able to manage a response time like that, they are aware of the need to be timely. In a recent study where researchers tested response times, Zappos proved the speediest, posting an average response time of 54 minutes. The next closest companies were Best Buy (1:47), Overstock (1:53), Dell.com (2:28), and L.L. Bean (3:55) (source). Zappos’ quality of service provides them so much positive word-of-mouth buzz that they spend significantly less on marketing than their rival retailers. This is a good example of how an investment made in the customer service department can deliver significant value for the marketing department.

Many individuals, mostly celebrities, have put this network effect into action, with the number one Twitter account, belonging to performing artist Lady Gaga (3.5 million followers). In fact, 84 of the top 100 Twitter accounts belong to individual people (source). What these individuals say about a company in social media can have a greater impact on the brand than what the company says about itself. A single negative comment on a product or service by one of these influencers can result in significant impact to the brand. The earlier example of David Allen shows this as does an incident that my favorite movie director, Kevin Smith, had with Southwest Airlines.

Mr. Smith had a problem with Southwest Airlines in February of 2010, he took to his Twitter account and its 1.6 million followers at the time. Within sixteen minutes, Southwest had replied, and while that speed helped, the public relation crisis had already begun. Most of the back and forth was over within two days, but it was picked up by national press as well as a strong following in social media (including over 15,000 tweets). Kevin himself tweeted eleven times, each going to his 1.6 million followers and then being retweeted many more times.


After 5 days, the crisis was completely over. Southwest’s brand took a hit as two-thirds of the comments on Twitter were negative towards Southwest.


An interesting comparison is a more recent tweet from Kevin about his flight experience on Virgin Atlantic Airways, which was much more positive as he was seated next to the company’s owner, Sir Richard Branson.


Given this, it is surprising that over half of consumer-facing Fortune 500 companies are not keeping up with their customers desire to use social media. They do not provide links to their Twitter or Facebook accounts on their website “Contact Us” pages. Half of these stragglers do not mention their social media presence on their website at all (source).
Not only does this prevent many of the brand’s consumers from interacting the way many want to, but it also portrays the brand as being behind the times, something that can be quite harmful for brands targeting younger demographics. In fact, 15% of 16-24 year old customers prefer social media over any other channel for customer service (source).

USAA, a bank primarily servicing members of the US Armed Forces and their families, is known for delivering the highest levels of customer support, earning them many awards (source). In 2009, USAA started monitoring customer messages on social media sites: “As you’re listening, you don’t want to be a stalker and observer on the web — you want to be jumping into those conversations, particularly as it pertains to reputation management or improving the customer experience,” USAA’s VP of Member Communications, Rhonda Crawford said. Even with USAA’s reputation for customer service, members still take to social media channels as a last resort. “It’s a complaint that comes through a megaphone,” Crawford observed. “When people are tweeting every half hour about a problem they had at the call center, you want to jump on that quickly and resolve the situation.” Crawford also explained USAA’s policy to take social media conversations to a different medium when private details like a customer’s member number are required.

USAA is not the only bank that takes supporting their customers and brand through social media seriously. Citibank ran into a brand problem that started on their blog and migrated to Twitter. While the bank responded to the event in 36 hours, timely for a bank, it wasn’t timely enough for this channel. “The crisis was done in three hours,” Citibank’s Director, Digital Channel Strategy & Social Media, Jaime Punishill said. “In three hours, we had lost the war… Make sure that you prepare for the worst, because it will happen, and it will happen fast..” (source: Crosman, P. (2010, July). Social Butterflies. Bank Systems & Technology, pp. 33-34)

Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the need to treat social media as a new customer service channel for your brand. In my third and final post on this subject, I’ll provide nine recommendations on how to go about successfully supporting you customers via social media.

Contact or follow me at @CarlKnerr

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MLTS 9-1-1 Bad Practices

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is also available as an MP3 Audio File

While many of the podcasts and lists that we create focus on how to do something or a best practice, of equal value are lists of how NOT to do something. With the recent tragedy on December 1, 2013 in Marshall, Texas, the nine-year-old daughter of Kari Hunt watched as her mother was stabbed to death by her estranged husband in a hotel room. Allegedly the nine-year-old tried to dial 9-1-1 from the hotel room phone, but was unable to due to a 9 being required for an outside line.

This incident has sparked a number of comments, some of which are good common sense, and others that may sound logical, but when you look closely at the problem, it becomes clear that these may not be good choices.

178-Dial9911.gifProbably the most common knee-jerk reaction that I hear is to put a sticker on the phone that says Dial 9 9-1-1 for emergencies. The problem with placards is that you are assuming everyone’s primary language is English which is not the case, you are assuming that someone will read the placard, and don’t forget about persons who are blind, and you have the case where a small child may know to dial 9-1-1, but may not be able to read, hence rendering the placards useless.

Dialing 8 for an outside line instead of 9
178-Dial8.gifThere is a popular belief that the reason you cannot dial 9-1-1 directly from a telephone behind PBX is because 9 is used to make an outgoing call, therefore conflicting with 9-1-1. While this may have been true many years ago, it simply is no longer the case in most modern communications telephone systems. In the past, 9 would connect you to a trunk, where you would then dial the digits you needed. Most PBX telephone systems today collect all of the dialed digits, analyze them for routing and authorization, and then select a telephone trunk to place the call. While some programming is typically needed, dealing with 9-1-1 directly and 9 9-1-1 is a simple administrative task that should have been taken care of by the telephone installer. The fix is to allow 9-1-1 to reach 9-1-1.

Locally terminating 9-1-1
178-LTERM.jpgA common request by many large corporate entities is to redirect 9-1-1 calls to a local security desk where the calls are answered internally. It’s commonly assumed that on-site individuals are better equipped to deal with an emergency, and can do so faster. This is a fatal assumption to make for several reasons. Unless the position where you are terminating the 9-1-1 calls is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has the ability to handle multiple simultaneous calls, you are potentially exposing an internal 9-1-1 caller to the risk of not having their call answered. Additionally, public safety 9-1-1 dispatchers are typically certified as an EMD or emergency medical dispatcher. They have been trained to deal with emergencies, and can provide basic instructions that can provide a little bit of breathing room in the response. For example, if someone is choking they can provide instructions on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver. If someone is bleeding they can provide basic first aid instructions that can give first responders precious extra minutes to get to the scene.

Confusing and unclear 9-1-1 legislation
178-CPUC911.pngQuite often 9-1-1 laws have been made in a vacuum, without input from industry technologists. Because of this, the legislation that exists in the 18 states that have it can be unclear or ineffective. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) published model legislation in 2008. This legislation was crafted by industry experts and public safety representatives to provide a baseline of functionality for owners and operators of multi-line telephone systems (MLTS/PBX). Those baseline functions have been used in recent states like California in their pending legislation. The NENA MLTS Model Legislation suggests:

Access to 9-1-1 with and without a trunk access code
178-Num9.gifDialing plan conflicts are often no longer an issue with modern communications systems. People are taught to down 9-1-1 from a very young age. It’s critical that this functionality carries forward on all devices, regardless of what they’re attached to.

Location granularity aligning with fire alarm zones
178-FloorPlan.pngOne of the common areas of discussion around emergency calling from behind a PBX, is what specific granularity of location should be provided to the Public Safety Answer Position (PSAP). You would immediately think that the most granular information is the best. What you need to stop and realize is while cubicle 2C231 may be extremely relevant to people within the building, public safety first responders do not carry floor plans, and this extraneous information means nothing to them. Before a first responder can provide assistance, they need to be able to arrive at the right building, and right entrance way. Once they get there, local on-site responders should be well aware that there coming, and also should have knowledge that a 9-1-1 call has taken place, so they can take proactive steps in providing access, or even first aid while public safety is in route.

On-site notification of 9-1-1 call events
178_POP.pngThis functionality, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, is really the key to “situational awareness” that an event is, or has, taken place. It allows internal responders to confirm and assist the person who has dialed 9-1-1, and provides notice that first responders are on the way so that preparations can be made. This includes ensuring access doors are unlocked, elevators are available and hallways are unobstructed.

There is a large misnomer in the industry that E9-1-1 functionality in a PBX is one that is expensive to implement, and administratively difficult to maintain. This is a remnant from companies with technologies designed to manage user mobility in the public safety PS-ALI database. By removing the requirement to manage at the station level, with information that is cryptic and not useful to public safety, the cost of the solution is significantly reduced as the simplicity is significantly increased.

With increased simplicity, there is a more likely chance of deployment. Within more likely chance of deployment, incidents similar to what happened in Marshall, Texas can become a thing of the past.

Don’t get caught up in the hype. Barging in on a 9-1-1 call, or locally recording a 9-1-1 call, or interfering with the 9-1-1 call path are all knee-jerk reactions that are not considered best practices by the industry. Providing situational awareness in ease of access to 9-1-1 are things that are both built into most PBX systems today and that’s where the focus on 9-1-1 should be.

Want more Technology, News and Information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN . There you will find additional Podcasts from Industry Events such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN Staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911


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NSFW? The Gooey side of E911

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There is a new breed of architect that is becoming more and more popular in the application world. Conceptually, they understand networking, data, and even voice applications. Although their work fosters innovation at the root level of development, these folks situate themselves far above the clatter and din and provide direction and guidance on the overall User eXperience, and have evolved into what the world is calling a UX architect.

Ultimately, what will make or break an application is the GUI or Graphical User Interface that the end-user must interface with to use that application. Over the years in technology we have moved centralized computing from the back room data center to the desktop, but a much more tangible and relevant revolution was the move from a “green screen” environment, to Windows or Apple iOS.

When you look back at the applications that were used, such as word processing for example, the software I initially learned was WordStar on a CPM 80 operating system. There was a command key shortcut for everything, and even today many of those shortcuts have almost become a verb in our language such as “Ctrl-C” and “Ctrl-V.” When I want to make something bold, I highlighted and hit ” Ctrl-B.” Looking at that as an example, the functionality was always there in the software, what Windows or Apple iOS brought to the table was the GUI, or the ability to use a mouse to double-click, highlight and select the segment of text that I wanted to work with.

Legacy_ALI_Display.jpgWhen I look at public safety applications, as they are in use today, I find an incredible similarity to the Corporate Enterprise evolution that has occurred over the last 20 years. For various reasons, public safety has lagged in technology regardless of the fact that newer technology is available, and the “customer”, a.k.a. the general public, has moved forward using that new technology.

When I look at the presentation of E911 location information in the enterprise, as well as the public safety side, I’m just shocked at the antiquated, rudimentary information that is displayed, in addition to the way it is displayed. At best, we have taken the information that was defined over three decades ago, and presented that information, in its original form, on a modern communications GUI. Looking at how applications present that information, must make the skin crawl on today’s UX Architects.

Becoming more aware of the UX importance was something that I picked up from industry influencer @DwayneSamuels who touts himself as a Tech Entrepreneur, Developer, Prime Minister’s Youth Awardee, YouTube Partner, Co-Founder of ?@Xormis? & ?@Grikly?, Optimist, Changing 1% of the Universe on his Twitter feed and his Jamaica based company dwaynesamuels.com.

After meeting and interviewing Duane at Avaya Evolutions Kingston, I got to thinking more and more about the UX in public safety applications. As a direct result of that influence, this mockup of a 911 dispatcher GUI was included in some of our patent applications that described how additional data would be correlated and then presented to the 911 call taker.


In addition to making all of this new data available directly to 911 PSAP and control rooms, since this data already resides in the enterprise network, it is only logical to start looking for applications that utilize this data, correlated with other relevant data from other sources, and then present local on-site first responders with information that is usable and actionable.

In the enterprise environment, if you are relying on the inherent on-site notification functionality to a telephone display, the limited display functionality of a telephone device does not make for a good GUI. This is where you need to think beyond the sales slick, and look at the operational functionality or “User Experience” at a much higher level, and decide if your enterprise E911 application is actually SFW or “safe for work.”

Although the enterprise applications today still utilize the basic information provided by the PBX (name and extension number). What about a user that has multiple bridged appearances within the same facility or within multiple facilities across the campus? Wouldn’t it be more logical to display a floor plan indicating the location of the device that made the 911 calls?

This all goes back to the logic that used to be valid. That logic was “phone numbers equal locations.” But in today’s highly nomadic and mobile corporate enterprise voice infrastructure, Avaya, as well as every single one of our competitor companies, are spending tens of millions of dollars each and every year in research and development geared towards making telephone numbers NOT equal locations. Providing a ubiquitously mobile work environment, and the communications capabilities that go along with it.

We all know what Next Generation 911 is going to look like at a level sufficient enough to start developing towards and be in alignment with the ratified NENA i3 architecture. RFAI, although a standard that is compliant with NENA i3 is in reality the same data that we are getting today, just delivered over an IP infrastructure which does not automatically make that data NENA i3 architecturally.

The moral to this blog is to closely pay attention to applications in public safety and their use of a modern and efficient User Experience GUI, and not just one that presents archaic data in its legacy format inside of a new window on your existing desktop.

Want more Technology, News and Information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at http://avaya.com/APN . There you will find additional Podcasts from Industry Events such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN Staff.

APN Blog Banner

Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya CONNECTED Blog on E9-1-1, I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉
Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Fletch911


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CacheFly is the world’s fastest CDN, delivering rich-media content up to 10x faster than traditional delivery methods. With a proven track record and over a decade’s worth of CDN experience, companies around the world choose the CacheFly CDN for reliable and unbeatable performance. For more information, visit www.cachefly.com