[Interview] Simon Robic – the social customer service revolution

Simon Robic is passionate about all things related to social media. At the beginning of 2013, he created Bringr, a social media publishing and monitoring tool with  François-Guillaume Ribreau. Two days ago, on Tuesday 5th May, the Bringr team and technology joined iAdvize, thereby strengthening the solution with a social media brick; it is now a real-time customer engagement platform.

Today, Simon Robic tells us a little bit about himself and a lot about his vision of social customer service. 

What did you do before creating Bringr?

I started working in 2009 as an online marketer for an agency. I created content and was very active on professional social networks, in particular Viadeo which was, at the time, the most widely used professional social network in France. My job was to generate leads. I also created an association called “Les blogueurs de l’Ouest” (Bloggers of the West) that organised events. Over four years, we got nearly 200 different bloggers together.

After that, I got a qualification in information technology. I knew it was important to grasp the technical side of things if I really wanted to see things from a user perspective. I was also a journalist specialised in new technologies.

At the same time, François-Guillaume, who became my associate, and I, started working on Bringr. By the end of 2012, we were working 100% on this project.

Where does your interest in social media come from?

I’ve always liked trying out anything new! Even if you give most innovations up quickly, I try them out to imagine how they could be improved or made more professional. I tried signing up to Facebook back when it was only available for American students and I created my Twitter account in February 2007. I instantly loved this constant flow of conversation. So many companies and startups spun off from these social networks, Bringr was one of them!

How do you believe companies should use social media to interact with online consumers?  

The percentage of active social network users is an important indicator for brands as these are all people who could potentially use social media to complain about a service, a product but also look for advice and tips.This study by we are social shows the percentage of active accounts compared to the population per country.

Companies should not only show interest in the messages that are sent to them directly but also listen to what’s being said on a wider scale: how do online consumers talk about their products, the competition … The ability to pick up on all the conversations taking place about a product, brand or event is a huge potential for brands.  They then need to collect this mass of information, and most importantly, analyse it and learn from it to solve issues, provide excellent customer service and invite those users to come visit the online or offline shop. It is just not enough to monitor what is being said about a brand or a name.

What role do social media play for companies and how are they the relation between different departments?

Social media are increasingly key.  It’s an easy way in for online shoppers who want to contact a brand to ask a question about a product, a purchase they’ve made, a browsing issue, etc. Depending on the reason the company has been contacted, the question can be routed to the appropriate department. Social media can also be used for outbound communication, to share content, job offers, press release, landing page, etc. Social networks now have a big role to play with regards crisis management. The community manager is in the front line. It therefore makes sense that social media will be increasingly important; the social media team is also a crisis unit!

Traditionally, the community manager has been on the marketing team, separate from customer service. But this division is increasingly meaningless as both are using the same channels. This is why it is in a company’s interest to choose integrated tools so that they can monitor all real-time interactions without friction. Bringr and iAdvize joined forces to meet this market need.

How do you define successful customer service on social media?

The first step towards successful customer service is to be able to pick up on relevant messages even when they are not addressed directly to the brand. Imagine someone saying “I just went into such and such a shop, it was a pretty disappointing experience” without speaking directly to the brand. The company needs to be able to collect this message and respond to it, quickly. This is even more true when it comes to complaints. There are examples of crises that irrupt because companies have just taken too long to answer. And of course, the customer experience is successful when the customer’s issue is solved and that a satisfactory solution has been provided.

In what ways do you think customer service will be different  in 20 years and how can companies get ready?

That’s a difficult question! I think we’ve got to a point of no return: the customer is king. Customers not only expect a rapid response but also expect to receive the response on the same channel they used to contact the brand in the first place. I think this will still be true in 10 or 20 years.

With regards the communication channels of the future, I pay very close attention to applications like Whatsapp and Snapchat. Whatsapp generates little income and is focused on customer experience. Its Chinese equivalent, Wechat, is one of the leading customer service channels in China with more than 400 million users (data from 2013).

It is important for companies to try out new innovations, without always having to invest human and monetary resources. Maybe only one person in the company uses it at first but this enables a first level of assessment and means that the company can stay agile, before moving on to potential industrialization. Trying things out first means you cut down on costs and that you’re more than ready when the solution is implemented on a larger scale.

iAdvize acquires Bringr

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