At Dell, social media has been around much longer than Facebook or Twitter. The popular Dell Community Forum was borne out of the original Dell.com website, so its community is well established. It's a user-to-user forum where anyone - including Dell employees and other customers - can answer a user's question.
"Facebook and Twitter are typically folks that are having issues at the moment that just want to be heard," says Amy Bivin, manager of community outreach for Dell. In contrast, the Forum often features more complex or esoteric questions, sometimes from owners of older legacy systems.
Dell has a global team of more than 200 social media customer service agents, providing support primarily on Facebook, Twitter, and the Dell Community Forum but also on Google Plus, YouTube, and WeChat and Sina Weibo in China.
Bivin's background in technical support, quality auditing, and executive escalations has helped her adapt to social media customer service, and she has hired other agents with similarly varied backgrounds. "Those were really great skills and experiences to have," she says. "It empowered us with the knowledge and the ability and the tools to be able to resolve just about any problem that Dell hears about from our customers."
Bivin says that Dell strives to provide a consistent customer experience across social channels and across time zones.
"We all try to use the same policies and procedures across the globe," she says. "That's been probably one of the most difficult things to do because as we put the teams together, everybody has their own best practices. So we've been working really hard over the years to consolidate and be consistent across the board to deliver the same experience in all languages across the globe."
There is a group called "Dell Community Forum Rock Stars" which answers about 30% of inquiries, with Bivin's team ensuring that questions without an answer from the community are properly addressed.
"It's a great community," Biven says. "They are expert users and each of them has different specialties and they just enjoy helping other people." The Rock Stars aren't paid, but they do enjoy certain perks like early access to new products and occasionally the ability to meet Dell executives.
The community has generated so much content over time that SEO drives a ton of traffic, with customers often Googling "Dell" and a question about their product and being directed to the Forum. Agents in other customer service channels also leverage the community's answers.
"We encourage our agents that are on these other properties like Twitter and Facebook and even YouTube, if there is an existing document either on our Dell Community Forum or on our support site, we want to drive folks there so that they can sell-solve online," Bivin explains.
Bivin took some time out from the recent Incite Customer Service Summit to discuss Dell's integrated social support model.
Here are some key moments from Episode 46 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast and where to find them:
00:55 Amy explains her background and how it helped prepare her for social media customer service
02:33 How the community support and "traditional" social media support teams interact at Dell
03:28 What types of questions are received on "traditional" social channels vs. the Dell Community Forum?
05:11 Amy explains the "Dell Community Forum Rock Stars" group
08:02 The Community's role in boosting SEO results
10:28 What has changed in social customer service in the last few years?
12:08 How the Dell Customer Service and Marketing teams work together
14:37 Amy shares a particularly memorable customer interaction
16:21 Amy's advice to other companies looking to excel at social care