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New Tool Helps TD Bank Speed Social Media Queries to Reps

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The latest incarnation of TD Bank's buildup of a broad social media program for North America—the embedding of Twitter staff within the contact center—is only a few months old, but the bank has already discovered the formula to win an impressive spike in the use of social media to resolve customer queries.

By embedding its Twitter experts with the contact center, and tying the two staffs' efforts together with a real-time online monitoring and analysis engine, the bank has seen a 25 percent monthly growth in Twitter use for customer service for each of the past three months.

"That's thousands of interactions every month with consumers," says Wendy Arnott, leader for social media for TD Bank for North America. "One of the most important things for a big, highly regulated organization is finding ways to connect and engage in ways that are really meaningful for customers."

That success has resulted from a nearly yearlong process in which the bank located the best social media venue for actionable customer service and positioned itself to respond immediately to customer queries on social media. That's tougher than it sounds because it requires social media staff to instantly be able to spot queries that begin in social networks but actually need to be handled in more private channels because of compliance and security requirements.

TD is using an analysis engine from Radian6, to help it study activity on all social networks to pick the best channel for customer service. The bank is also leveraging the software to help it determine which queries need to be passed along to "traditional" customer service reps, who are also being gradually trained to use Twitter to serve customers. The bank did not say what its exact goals are for Twitter-related customer service, but Arnott says she is pleased with the 25 percent monthly growth in service queries on Twitter thus far.

Designed primarily for ad agencies and PR firms (though it also has other financial clients like ING), Radian6 is a web-based platform that enables the bank to view social media conversations that are tied to its brand in real time. These conversations are then placed into visual analysis metrics that allow TD Bank to determine volume, timing, content, and the kinds of queries that can best be handled by social media representatives, and which need to be moved to customer service reps.

The bank is active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other major social networks, but found through its analysis that Twitter is the best channel to handle customer queries, while other channels are better for marketing and general information.

"We don't really know the full answer yet as to why Twitter's the best for customer service," says Arnott. "But lots of times when customers have questions about services or are looking for a store or a branch, it's easy to use Twitter to reach out and get that information. The bank has hired teams of about ten social media staffers for Canada and the US, who staff its Twitter feed between 6 am and 11 pm each day.

Broadly, the Twitter staff handles queries about branch locations, hours and other general information, while questions on special products or accounts are referred to the contact center. Customers who are engaged in a dialogue with TD's Twitter staff are often asked via Twitter to contact the bank directly to provide more information. These interactions are also tracked and monitored as part of the bank's efforts to make the handoffs seamless. Other customers, with less detailed service queries that don't include the disclosure of sensitive information, are sent to a direct message option within Twitter.

"You want a response time that's as quick as possible," says Arnott, adding that before the embedding with contact center, there would occasionally be delays between Twitter queries and responses because of the separation of the two staffs. Arnott says the Twitter staffing levels are determined by monitoring overall levels of Twitter activity, but says there's still no modeling technique to determine the exact number of Twitter staffers are needed based on volume.

Arnott says training of both Twitter and contact center staff to understand and handle each other's queries is ongoing. "The social media team has also worked with legal and compliance [departments]" to ensure processes are in compliance with rules and regulations, Arnott says.

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