HostingCon Preview: Q&A with Elya McCleave of SoftCom

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In the few weeks leading up to HostingCon 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts (from July 16 to July 18, 2012), the WHIR will be posting Q&As with some of the presenters from the event’s educational program.

The emergence of powerful social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have been a welcome supplement, and in many cases, alternative to the more traditional customer support methods of telephone and email.

Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m., Elya McCleave, vice president of customer care at SoftCom will present The Next Evolution in Customer Care – Service Cloud, where she will focus on the advantages of providing customer support via the “service cloud”.

In an email interview with the WHIR, McCleave highlights the strategic ways in which web hosts can leverage service delivery through the cloud to provide better support to their customers.

WHIR: What are the advantages of providing customer support through the cloud?

Elya McCleave: Social media has flipped customer support on its head. Customers have changed in the number of ways within a very short period of time; they are now empowered to comment on their experiences and that information travels across the world in a blink of an eye. It’s no longer enough to be reactive waiting for customers to call or send emails. Organizations have to be proactive in searching for customer feedback. This takes an ability to recognize concerns as they are just being raised and act on them immediately before the customer even thinks about placing the cancellation order. On the other side, positive experiences also are to be recognized and customers shown that they are valued. Providing Customer Support through the cloud is about an agility and flexibility to seamlessly serve customers on any device they use, via any channel and at any time.

WHIR: What are some common missteps hosting providers make in providing customer support? How can they remedy these?

EM: Customer Service revolution is everywhere. No longer are your clients limited to placing phone calls or sending emails to get answers. Customers expect companies to serve them whenever and wherever they are. Such shifts in customer behavior should be taken very seriously by hosting providers. To stay competitive in a long run an organization cannot continue delivering service the same way it was done five plus years ago. It’s about an organization listening to the clients and keeping up with their pace. This does mean shedding older processes and metrics, and adopting practices and policies that are focused on the customer experience improvements.

WHIR: How can smaller web hosts with limited resources ensure they are still offering great customer support?

EM: I believe smaller web hosts have an upper hand when it comes to ability of creating the right type of an organizational culture. Those are the firms that can build truly family-oriented environment, care for their staff and engage with them one-on-one. This has an extremely positive impact on the clients, since we all know that people do business with people and not with the companies. Therefore my biggest advice is to make sure your employees feel empowered and valued. I also would recommend taking a closer look at your metrics. Rather than focusing on call handle time, try relying on metrics like NPS, customer value, and first-call resolution, as well as social metrics. It’s about the balance of what matters and putting more emphasis on the effectiveness of the customer experience rather than efficiency.

WHIR: What kind of content should hosting companies be addressing in their blogs?

EM: I believe when it comes to the blog content it’s all about alignment with what it is important to your customer base. It’s also about the efforts of building relationships with your customers. Even though clients have changed their behavior and expectations, one thing that hasn’t changed is their core philosophies. They’ve always wanted to be listened to, and for companies to act on what they hear. They want companies to value their time as well as money. They also what to know who they are doing business with, and if you can be trusted. I found blog posts on the Top Contact Drivers with answers to those concerns, organizational plans for the future and progress made, employee as well as customer spotlights always appreciated by the readers.

WHIR: How often should web hosts update their Facebook and Twitter accounts?

EM: A new study from the Genesys/Economist, which surveyed 798 top- and middle-ranking business executives, shows a disconnect between social and service. Only 48 percent of organizations use social media and networking sites to communicate with customers, whereas the majority (90 percent) continues to lean on the company website and email (88 percent). And 42 percent of organizations use call centers to communicate with customers, while just 6 percent see customer support and service as the main purpose of new communication channels. Social Media has actually opened doors for companies to realize how to put customers at the center of the universe. First-generation social platforms were all about listening – now it’s about taking action on the listening. Web hosts should engage on all the Social Channels they adopt as often as their customers request, and the more they engage the more customers are to join those channels.

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