Running customer service on Facebook takes tools and training

Rosetta Stone has launched a program to use Facebook as a customer service channel. It’s all part of a company-wide initiative to be more social.

For Jay Topper, senior vice president of customer success for Rosetta Stone, the biggest worry when the company launched an initiative to provide customer service over Facebook was staffing.

"You never know how many people are going to take advantage of the medium," Topper said. "We had to over-train a lot of people."

This month, Rosetta Stone, an Arlington, Va.-based maker of language learning software, became the first company to use a new application from Parature that provides a customer support portal on Facebook. The Rosetta Stone Facebook page now includes a tab for "support," which gives people on Facebook access to the Rosetta Stone self-service knowledge base as well as the opportunity to chat with a customer service agent. The chat service opens the Parature chat application, not Facebook's.

Already active on Twitter and blogs and with 7,000 fans on Facebook, Rosetta Stone wanted to make finding help easy, no matter how customers were communicating with the company.

"One of my department's visions is that learners can come to us for support, help, guidance in any manner they want to," Topper said. "This is just adding a channel -- social media."

Sounds simple enough, but adding the new customer service channel took careful planning and preparing of staff.

Like many companies interested in the intersection of social networks and CRM, typically called social CRM, Rosetta Stone has taken a keen interest in the social channel. A corporate group that works out of marketing was created about six months ago and tasked with monitoring the Rosetta Stone brand on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Topper also assembled a social media team about a month ago to handle customer service.

"We learned from Facebook," he said. "We mined our own CRM system and found that one out of every five calls was either directly or indirectly about how the product works and what your pedagogy [is]. It's kind of a live, 24/7 focus group where we hear about the needs of potential learners."

Providing language learning software and services means Rosetta Stone gets a lot of questions about how it teaches, and many of those questions come up in the social channels. That made providing customer service on Facebook a priority. Some agents within the customer service department are authorized to respond via social channels. But Topper doesn't necessarily want Facebook itself to become the primary method people employ to reach customer service, nor does he want the Facebook page to be purely about service.

"We don't want Facebook to become customer support," he said. "We want it to be known as a social media channel for people interested in language learning. That's why we have customer support [as] a tab. You have to click this tab to go through the support chain. It's just an added service we're offering to customers who want to use that channel."

The marketing and customer service balance in social CRM

Like many social CRM pioneers, Rosetta Stone had to find a balance between marketing and service with its social networking efforts.

On the marketing side, there is a social media manager who works for marketing, with two people reporting to her. They are responsible for the global brand, providing guidelines and instituting strategic direction around social networks. Topper has a person in charge of social from the customer service side.

"If my lead decides to do something around support or service, she dot lines to global marketing," he said. "Similarly, the brand team may want to access customers, and they come to us. These people sit next to each other, and every meeting I'm in with one, I'm in with the other as well. "

Training and finding social CRM skills

Some organizations have turned to their email marketing operations to find social CRM skills, but Rosetta Stone has put a big emphasis on training its employees for social networks, not just in customer service and marketing.

"Social media training is no different than the company's sexual harassment training -- it's part of our core management training," Topper said.

Those on customer service go through additional training, called "Rosetta Stone University," about 80% of which is online and explains the company's products and systems, according to Topper.

"That just prepares you to sit on the job and do that job in a trial state," he said. "Then there's product support, customer care, customer success [and] onsite training. Some of those people then raise their hand and say, 'I'd like further social media training.’ A lot of it is familiarity with the [social media] guidelines, but a lot is about character. Some people are really good at it. Some just aren't as comfortable."

Not surprisingly, Topper looks for social people to fill those roles, and agents on the social media team do not take inbound calls. Their focus is enticing people to spend more time in the Rosetta Stone communities.

Dig Deeper on Social media customer experience