What is your current title and how long have you been at Microsoft?

I have joined Microsoft a bit more than a year ago, coming from 10+ experience working in a Project Management/Consulting capability working first for Accenture and Oracle afterwards, since joining I had the privilege and also the opportunity to drive the Social Media initiative in EMEA.

In my role as Senior Program Manager within the Strategy Management team, I help Microsoft Customer Service & Support (CSS) business to develop and execute strategies in line with our overall customer-centric vision. My current focus is to help CSS to shape up and execute our social media strategy in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

For sake of clarity, Microsoft Customer Service and Support (CSS) is the support engine behind Microsoft’s products. We are passionate about our customers and strive to listen to their voice and guide them along their journey with Microsoft products and continuously look at ways to innovate our support service is no exception; we aim to make it as easy as possible for customers to reach us via whatever channel is most convenient to them, and to find answers to their queries – Social Media is one of the ways in which we are looking to innovate our support to Customers especially targeted (but not exclusive) to the young / digital natives that have more familiarity with the Social platforms such as Facebook and twitter.

 

When and how did you first become involved in Social Media? Think Personal OR professionally

Social media has increased in popularity over recent years, making these platforms fast and effective channels to reach large communities of consumers.

As an example of the reach of social media, if Facebook were a country it would be the second largest country in the world.

This is impressive, Social media is re-shaping the way that people seek and share information, so it’s important that we as individuals recognize this wave of changes and that Businesses cater for these millions of users, connect to them and support them.

Personally, I have been interested to Social Media from the start of this phenomenon, initially interested to the social impacts this was having with our culture and society; I was then offered the opportunity to be involved also on a professional level so I embraced if also as part of my everyday job.

This might sound somehow controversial but social media is in my view exposing all our ‘human behaviours’ online and I find fascinating the power this information is now giving to us – Social Media is undoubtedly offering a great platform where we can read and learn more about our people, what they think and in general about our society.

I think it’s fascinating to have such a rich set of information now available and it’s even more exciting to be among the first to have the opportunity to try and ‘make some sense’ to all these data.

From a business prospective, I believe it’s important for every successful company to be concerned and ‘in tune’ with everything that is happening in our society and Social Media is no exception.

People (that are also Customers) are talking on Social Media whether we like it or not; these same people are taking in large volumes to channels such as Twitter and Facebook to talk about their product experiences and seek advice; a good management of their feedback through the enablement of a ‘social connection’ should be in my view an essential element of any large company’s strategy.

 

How do you feel Social Media is changing our interaction with Customers?

Today, customers can reach Companies and Microsoft in a number of ways, from more traditional methods such as phone and email, to newer ways including Chat and social media – channels that are becoming increasingly popular with end-users and which, in turn, are shaping the way in which customers want to interact with organisations of all sizes.

With this in mind our initiative, following the launch of our English Twitter support in October last year, has launched our French, German, Italian and Dutch support on twitter and Facebook and already we have had a fantastic response to the service. We have reached more than 10,000 followers to all our accounts and have sent more than 4,500 tweets to customers. We receive about 300 – 400 weekly questions worldwide and proactively reach out to around 200 customers a week, to offer help with issues or queries even before they reach us with their questions.

One of the benefits of social media as a support platform is that users log on to these networks to socialise, share and connect, therefore they tend to be very honest regarding our products, and ask very direct questions, which helps us to create strong, personal connections with our customers. A number of end-users have contacted us “wishing us good luck” with our social media initiative and they have been advocating our products and services through their own personal Twitter accounts.

Effective and efficient customer support is critical to Microsoft’s overall success and a key competitive differentiator, so it’s important that we are always ahead of the game. Our aim is to break down barriers between us and our customers, and find new ways to listen, engage and support large communities of Microsoft users. Organisations should not be asking whether or not to engage with customers via social media, but asking how best, and when, to use these powerful networks to communicate with all audiences.

Social support is also simple and effective. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are really just new channels through which customers can reach us. Just as in the past a customer could pick up a phone to ask us a question, now they can submit a query through their favourite social network.

 

 

 

 

 

When did you join the WW Social Media Engagement Council and what role do you play on the team?

I joined the WW Social Media Engagement Council about a year ago when we first kicked off the project in EMEA, as EMEA Project Manager I am pretty much representing the voice of EMEA during the council meetings and together with working with the council members to define, develop, evangelize and deliver our WW Social Media strategy, I also ‘help through sharing’ that is one of the Council’s key objectives behind the creation of these WW synergies.

Being Social Media such a ‘new thing’, I think it is essential that we create a culture within the council (but also everywhere else on the project) where we keep an eye open for ‘the latest and greatest’ things happening on Social media and that we share those internally to improve what we do today.

It’s only through listening and sharing that we have been able to deliver so quickly our initial model WW and that we continue to add value always delivering new capabilities & services.

Finally things change so quickly in this arena that sharing and becoming Social Media advocates should be seen as an essential part of our job.

 

What are your Social Media predictions relative to customer experience for 2011?

Social media is still a new and evolving area, so there are still some uncertainties regarding exactly how the social media phenomenon is going to evolve. It’s a new world where our traditional formulas no longer apply and we have the challenge of studying and defining a completely new engagement model with customers.

I feel that now is the right time to be embracing the social media model as we cannot ignore the fact that this is the way in which many customers now prefer to communicate with us.

We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the next five years or how this is going to develop, but I personally expect this to grow to a very steady pace and continue to see more and more people investing in engaging with each other and with companies in this new channel.

As for Microsoft, we are committed to innovating and investing in new support channels, including this one in order to continue to meet customer needs and help our customers in the best possible ways.

 

What is your advice to candidates seeking employment in social media?

I’d say ‘go for it’, at the end of the day we must recognize that the world is changing – it’s becoming more oriented on social interactions and communities

While traditional methods – such as the phone – will still continue to exist, it will become more and more a priority for every company to give customers as many options as possible and enable them to connect in the way the customer wants hence also via Social Media.

Considering that millions of people nowadays like to use Facebook and Twitter to “talk” to their friends, why shouldn’t this also apply to when they want to talk to companies?

This is a phenomenon that in my view is bound to stay for a very long while and building skills in this area now that is still fresh, will give people that extra ‘something’ that will differentiate them from other candidates.

So I would encourage people to develop themselves in this area while companies will look for those skillset more and more in the very near future.

There’s also plenty of information available online on this topic, great articles and analysis and I would encourage all candidates to keep themselves very up-to-dated with all the things happening there and to actually use the social media channels themselves to stay connected with their friends and family and to promote their profiles or if they are not sharing the ‘social media mind-set’ they can always create a profile and use it just as a way to experience first-hand what’s happening on Social Media.