The Community Manager's place in customer relations 2.0

In France, there are more than 54 million Internet users, i.e. 83% of the French population. Furthermore, 68% of French people are on at least one social network. The use of social networks is therefore no longer a question in France, where more and more users are speaking their mind, sharing their experiences and asking brands questions on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram (Social Network Figures – 2014).

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The Community Manager is responsible for managing and responding users' technical questions, after-sales issues, and requests for information. He must therefore have the same level of knowledge as the customer advisers to be able to offer users the best possible response.

What exactly does the Community Manager do within the organisation? Should this role be integrated into customer services or left autonomous? How can customer services also negotiate this digital bend?

What is a Community Manager?

Even though the photofit of the Community Manager is a classic exercise and many articles have already dealt with this subject, I felt it was a good idea to quickly take stock.

According to the Région Job study on Community Managers, they mainly belong to the Communication (45%) and Marketing (25%) departments of companies, and it is their mission to improve the brand's reputation, win new customers and build the loyalty of existing customers.

Although, day to day, the Community Manager's tasks may vary, creating content, managing relationships with bloggers, monitoring or creating graphics, this brand spokesperson is first and foremost there to create interaction with Internet users: he shares articles, suggests competitions and encourages a reaction from the community. But this interaction can also take another form: if the Internet user, whether he is a customer or a prospect, asks a question about a product or complains about an order directly on the brand's Facebook page, the Community Manager responds directly.

It is in this sense that his position is similar to that of the customer advisers, who also manage interactions but on other channels: telephone, email, chat and SMS.

As the Community Manager is himself faced with customer relationship management issues, it is essential that he has the same level of knowledge as the rest of customer services.

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Make your Community Manager a customer relations expert.

Although the Community Manager masters the rules of communicating on social media and understands the restrictions associated with each space, he must be familiar with the types of responses to give depending on the questions, the actions to perform, etc.

To handle a customer’s question about delivery of his order, for example, the Community Manager knows where to find the answer, who he can contact to find out and how to transform a request into a positive customer experience, especially if the initial demand is a complaint.

In addition, on social media, where Internet users expect a relatively quick and personalised response, a brand's organisation must enable an appropriate and timely response. Sending a standard message or failing to respond is not looked upon favourably by Internet users.

The Community Manager, with help from customer services, must identify the different types of message received and determine the relevant response. This joint endeavour will help to coordinate responses between the different company departments that have contact with customers: marketing or communication and customer services. Anything you say, even on Facebook, involves potential risks for a brand in terms of image and credibility.

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Adapt your customer relations to new channels.

However, the Community Manager runs the risk of quickly being overwhelmed by the high volume of customer demands on social media. There may be surprises in store if you set up a Facebook page. It can, for example, become a place where users let off steam and complain about a service, request after-sales information, etc. rather than just commenting on a photo.

The Community Manager cannot take on management of online customer relations on his own for very long. The types of questions, often very technical or needing confidential account data, and the sheer volume of questions are two reasons why customer services might take over management of customer requests on social media.

The marketing and communication teams are often behind this movement and can support customer services in the training of its advisers and its choice of tools. The issue of technology is without doubt one of the key issues for customer relations. Tools like Dimelo or Eptica can be used to manage digital customer relations effectively, across all channels, from a single platform. Try out several tools for yourself to compare their features and see how they can be incorporated into your own organisation. The important thing is that these digital interactions integrate perfectly into your customer relations that already exist on other channels. Relations should be simple and flow smoothly.

The Community Manager role in customer relations 2.0 is well and truly the link between Internet users and the brand. It is the Community Manager who will normally guide customer services in their choice of tool and in implementation of a response process. The Community Manager is not a connected customer adviser, except in the case of low conversation volume. He communicates on digital platforms and lets customer services take care of online after-sales.

Even though distribution of tasks is relatively clear, it is evident that the information from these exchanges, whether from customer relations or communication, must be used to populate a knowledge bank available to the different teams.

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I hope that this blog has inspired you and helped to clarify things. If I had to sum up in one sentence, I would say that the Community Manager can bring a great deal to customer services with his mastery of social media, but it is up to customer relations to take ownership of issues related to management of social interactions. For more information on this subject, please read Cédric Deniaud's great blog post on new challenges in customer relations.

Please let me know what you think and feel free to share your experiences of the subject!