SOC1: Customer Service & Social Media: You Can Do Better

Mike Petroff 
Web Manager for Enrollment, Emerson College

The audio for this podcast can be downloaded at

Announcer: This is one in a series of podcasts from the HighEdWeb Conference in Austin 2011.


Mike Petroff: All right. This presentation is titled "You Can Do Better" because a lot of what I'm going to focus on is actual things that you can take from this presentation, take back to work and do tomorrow that can help you improve customer service.

Just a quick thing. I'm Mike Petroff. Thanks for the introduction, Mark. I work at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and I work as the Web and Enrollment Technology Manager. And I work in the admission office, which is kind of interesting. Day to day what I deal with is the prospective students, incoming students, graduate prospective students, but also I assist with the overall college strategy for social media, so I'm one of the people behind our Twitter account, our Facebook page, YouTube account, that kind of stuff.

How many people are playing along on Twitter today? All right, just a few of you. If you're tweeting anything, just hashtag it with #soc1. And what I'll be doing, too, is tracking some of that stuff and providing stats later and sharing any of that if you end up tweeting any links or anything there. And then I'm @mikepetroff on Twitter.


So let's get started.

Like I said, the focus on this is 'doing'. One of the things we always talk about with social media is we talk about social media. We talk about it so much. There's so much lip service done to say, 'What should we do with it? What's the strategy?' You talk so much. But people out there are using it. All of your customers are out there.

I'm going to talk about customers as students, as alumni, as parents. Anybody who has any connection to your school, I'm going to talk about them as customers, because really that's who they are. So if you think about that quote throughout this entire presentation should help you jag up some ideas.

I'm going to start where I think customer service and social media is broken at this point. I'm going to start with that and then show you ways to fix it step by step.


Let's talk about the customer cycle.

I think the customer cycle, when we think about it, is we put all of our time, energy, money into brand quality. I'll get to that in a bit. But think about the last big project that you had at your college, a web redesign, even down to something small like a Facebook page going up. It's all about showing off your brand.

Do you ever think about the return on that, what the customer experience is going to be like with that brand, how they're interacting with your staff? Are you spending any of that money, staff, consulting dollars, into that process?

So this is what I like to call the 'customer cycle disconnect', because I think what happens is, if you look at this chart, you'll see that money pours in brand quality. That's where we spend money on marketing: improving the logo, improving the catchphrase for the college, improving the tools that we have to show that off.

You're going to appease the regular customers. Those customers are already there. It's your current students, your parents. They're thinking, 'Wow, this new brand is great!' You want them to share that via word of mouth, and that's pretty much social media in a nutshell. All those green arrows are social actions.


So hopefully that's going to encourage new customers. That's what's going out there to show off this new content, to get people talking about you.

But what happens at that customer experience level? That's where I think there's a big disconnect right now and we're not using social media properly, because I think what we use it for is marketing, but we don't use it for the return. We don't use it for what people are going to say about us and how we're going to react. It's always a very reactive thought when we're doing this.

So if those customers don't have a good experience or they ask you a question and they don't get a response, they pose something out there hoping to get something from you and they don't, all of that money that you spend in brand quality is gone because those new customers you're trying to lead in are not. You're just getting your regular customers to talk about you and your new customers are just going to go out the door.

If you look at this another way, you're spending all this money and time up front, you're putting all this big show, you're trying to lead them through this funnel, but then, that next day after that interaction where the transaction takes place, you're losing those new customers.


And just another way to think of it, you need to stop treating your customers like one-night stands. It's kind of the thing that you need to keep in your head, that if you're putting all this time and energy up front and then you're not there to respond the next day, you know you're doing it wrong.

I like to think that our grandparents had it right, not when it comes to one-night stands but when it comes to social media and customer service. And why do I say that? Because if you think about our grandparents didn't have social media, they had their small town. They interacted with customers one-to-one. And I think there's a lot that we can learn from them, and I want to talk about just a few things.

They developed close personal relationships with their customers. And I know, that's what we think. 'Yeah, that's great, because that's what social media does. It lets us do that.' But a close personal relationship is not me telling you something every single day without getting any feedback from you.


So when you're thinking customer service on social media, you can't think, 'I'm going to market. I'm going to create a Facebook page. I'm going to keep posting,' because, that's what's interesting. I mean, do you have any friends that just keep talking to you and you actually enjoy being around them? Probably not. You like that interaction back and forth.

Another point. They also share product recommendations and personalized information. And the internet is actually catching up to this trend where if you go to somewhere like Netflix, you go to somewhere like Amazon, they're sharing that personalized information because they have so much data about you.

But if you think about what our grandparents did, they owned the store, the data they knew about you was because you came to the store and you talked to them. You actually had interactions with them and you said, 'This is what I bought last week. It works really well. Do you have anything like this that I could use again?'


They're also personalizing that information. When you walk through the door at their store, they're saying, 'Hey, we just got this new thing over here,' 'Hey, what I wanted to show you was this,' because they knew what you were like coming in and out of the store everyday. And I think we need to try to apply that to customer service.

And the last thing is that, their reputation was not bought. It was earned through customer service. Just think about the branding or marketing campaigns that we pour thousands, millions of dollars into right now. It goes all over the country. It's placed in every ad. It's phone calls, it's emails, it's all that kind of stuff.

In a small town, the most marketing that one of our grandparents would probably do is place an ad in a local newspaper to say, 'Come to our store.' They're not spending a ton of money trying to market to gain popularity, to gain reputation. Their reputation is solely based on what those customers are saying about them after they have a transaction at the store. So you need to think about that in any marketing campaign that you're doing.


So a lot of this is great, but we're working with millions of people that are on social media talking about us. It's great that you have one store and you can contain that, but the question really becomes, how do you scale that? How do you scale what our grandparents did at their local store?

Through social media. I think social media is this great connecting tool where a lot of people can talk to each other, but we haven't yet figured out how to take that personalized experience and actually scale that on a broad level.

So I want to take you through a few steps that I think you should think about when you're trying to launch a marketing campaign and think about how you're going to react to your customers.

The first, this is the most important thing that you need to start with with any marketing campaign. How many people here work with a marketing department at all? OK. So you've gone into a project and they probably come to you and say, 'What's the website going to look like? What's the design?' You're asking them, 'Well, what's the content going to be?' And that's the tradeoff.


So they do their own research, they survey all the alumni, they survey all the parents. I went through a web redesigning a year and a half ago and we did this. One thing we didn't do as much as we should have, that I'm learning now, is I should've been on social media tracking every different keyword, everything I could possibly find about what people are saying about us and about what we're planning to say.

And you can't think, 'They're just going to be saying that about Emerson.' You need to reach out and look for all of those different areas where they possibly are talking about, 'Emerson College has a good performing arts program and a film program.' I need to see what high school students are saying about film, what they're saying about performing arts before we go into any big marketing launch, because I want to predict what they're going to be saying about us when we launch this.

So one of the things that you could do is set up these listening stations. And I'm not going too in-depth on how many departments should have them, that kind of stuff. I just listed out some departments that came to mind pretty quickly.


I work in admission, so I'm always seeing what students are saying about the application process, what credentials they may be submitting this week, or if there's any major problems, students freaking out about a deadline, students confused about deadlines, that kind of stuff.

But that can be applied to housing. When your students get their housing assignments, if your housing office is not on social media listening to what their students' complaints and all that kind of stuff is, you're going to be totally shocked when that flood of emails comes in that Monday morning after you send everything out Saturday. If you're tracking on Saturday, you're going to be prepared for it.

Another thing, too, is just crisis communication. Just a quick example of listening is, we gather a list on Twitter at Emerson College of students that post a lot about Emerson College. One of the reasons we do that is because when they're posting, they might not necessarily include @EmersonCollege in a mention or they might not hashtag it with something we're familiar with.


But one of the things that happened was there was, I guess, a fire alarm in one of our dorms that went off. What happened was there was about five or six students that starting posting that are current students that we knew posted a lot. They have a lot of followers.

So they started posting with this #littlebuildingfire hashtag, and some of them started retweeting that, and then it gained popularity within the community. And there's never any mention of Emerson mentioned in a hashtag or the actual mention in Twitter, but what was happening is that students were spreading this information.

And unless we were tracking that and listening to that at that time and could come back and respond with something quickly through Twitter, through an email, and through a web update, we would've lost an opportunity where now, two hours later, everybody thinks that there's a fire on campus, we're getting calls from trustees saying, 'What happened?' That's why you need to listen constantly.

Another very easy thing to do is just set up Google Alerts. I know a ton of you probably already do this, but you may just do this for a broad scale of your college. And I would implore you to actually look into doing more targeted Google Alerts for departments, for majors that you have at your campus, anything like that.


And at Emerson, I use TweetDeck pretty regularly for live updates. I want to know what's going on at that time. I'm going to use that as my second monitor to just view everything going on.

But we also use HootSuite, and I want to talk a little bit about why HootSuite is an amazing tool for listening, because I think it's one of the better tools for something called social media triage. You've probably heard that term before, but it's, 'There's a post and there's six of us who respond. Who responds? What do they say? How do they say it? What do we talk about? How do I let everyone else now that I have posted?'

And I want to point you to this thing right here where, in HootSuite, you can have different group users, and what you can do is actually assign a tweet to someone to trigger an email to that staff member to say, 'Hey, there's this tweet that came in. You need to do it.' Once you actually respond to the tweet, it shows it as a check box that you can say, 'Yes, I responded to this.'


So look for tools that let you organize your internal staff to actually respond to students that you're hearing on social media.

The only thing is just go where your customers go. They're not going to always talk about you on Facebook and Twitter. They're going to go to where community sites are, and I'll focus this one primarily on admission because that's what I know, but I know there's other areas to go.

How many people have gone to College Confidential and read information about... OK, barely anyone. But go there tomorrow and read what your prospective students, accepted students are saying about your college and what their fears and concerns are, because I think that's going to tell you what your future students are concerned with at your college.

Other things to go to. I mean, I have an alert that goes to Yahoo! Answers to just check what the questions are coming out all the time.


Yelp. Why Yelp is popular, and I look to that and I look to Google Reviews and that stuff, because when someone types in 'Emerson College' in Google to find out how to get here, what happens right before they show you the map that's on there, there's a 5-star rating right there that's telling people an immediate thought of, 'Oh, Emerson College? Oh, they're ranked 4 stars. People must like them.'

If that was a 1-star rating for some reason, I'd immediately go to our student body to find the right students to say, 'Hey, do you have comments or opinions about Emerson College? You should probably go on Yelp and review us,' or 'Go on Google and review us,' because I think that's where people go to get an idea of what your college is like.

I want to talk a little bit about live chat, too, because we talked about listening first and knowing what your customers want. Now I want to get into personalizing that information. And this is just a quick example of a way to personalize, and I want to spotlight a company that's doing something pretty cool called Olark.

A lot of other companies are out there doing this, but it's basically just letting you embed a live chat, chat with a representative or something like that. I just think their interface, the way they do it, is a lot cleaner than a lot of other companies out there.


So here's what they're doing right. You can see has this on the right side where you can pop out a live chat. That live chat will tell you if someone's there waiting to answer. They can type in a question, get an immediate response. That chat goes to your IM chat, it goes to your GTalk, it goes to whatever mobile device you're on. It's pretty cool.

So that's a way to capture people that go to your site as a passive user and actually interact with them one-to-one on your website. You're not trying to get them to go to Facebook to talk to you, you're not trying to get them to go to Twitter to talk to you. You can actually do that in your site.

The other thing that it does is it integrates with CRMs that are out there. So if anybody's using Zendesk or Salesforce or anything like that, you can track these interactions that people have with you. Then next time they return as a customer, if they're on the same IP address, you can see what interactions they've had with you before.


You can actually even reach out to them on your website if they're stalled somewhere or stuck somewhere returning as, say, an applicant comes back again and we can look on our website and say, 'Oh, it looks like you were asking this question before,' or 'Is there anything else we can help you with?' I think personalizing that web experience is a really important tool that you should think about using.

So why does this matter? What's personalizing a web experience? You're thinking, 'Well, yeah, I've seen live chat forever. I've seen live chat on websites.'

Here's two stats that came out from Olark when they were working with companies and when they introduced this information. This is what they came out with.

One of the stats: users spent 3% more time on e-commerce sites with live chat. You're thinking, 'Yeah, because people will go to the site, they spend more time because they're chatting with someone while they're looking at a page.' Great, that's an OK stat.


But here's the one that totally won me over: users were 300% more likely to return if they used live chat on your site. Think about this. You want to develop customers, not visitors, to your site. This is a perfect way to get a visitor to turn into a customer for your site, because they're going to return to your site. So just think about when you're thinking live chat, because I think it's a really powerful thing to use.

Then you're thinking, 'There's thousands of visitors to our site everyday. How are we possibly going to keep up with this?' And I'll just give you this, because I saw this quote from Gary Vaynerchuk, and I have a video from him later, but really, "You have to out-care your competition." This goes back to that quote about doing.

If you're not out-caring your competitor, if a customer is going to their website and they have an amazing live chat experience and they're getting customer support right there and then, they have every question answered, they're leaving that site, they'll immediately go to Twitter and say like, 'Oh, my God!' How many people have done that where they have a great experience on a website and go to Twitter and talk about it? Every single one of your followers knows about that, and they'll probably go to that site just to try to reenact that same experience. You just have to out-care your competition.


You can focus this live chat, too, in certain areas across your website. You don't have to put it on your entire website. Maybe think of those transaction points on your site, signing up for a web request or having someone donate, that kind of stuff, just being there, so that if there's any questions that come up, you need to respond to those.

Now I want to talk a bit about growingness to the community, because social is all about social. We want to grow this out to our community and try to get them to also help with this.

I'm going to talk about a first step that I think so many of us forget to do. We always immediately go to the source. We don't create internally what we should set up beforehand.

And this is what I like to call 'social knowledge base'. Basically what you can do is use staff and students to create a shared space, where I like to give Tim... Is Tim here? Yeah, there you are. He created for, it was accepted students, right? It was a wiki basically for public and private, and you build it from there.


But I like to use that example because it's good to just see an FAQ in action that was using current students to add to it, using the public to add it. But where you should start is just within your own staff.

Why do I say this? Because you need to think bricks, not buildings, when you're putting together an FAQ. Most people go out there and they'll put together an FAQ and say, 'I've got to talk to everybody on campus. I've got to ask the right questions. I've got to find out what they want in their website. I've got to do all this kind of stuff.'

Let them do that for you. Just create a shared doc. How easy is it to create a shared Google doc, put some columns in there, and say, 'Hey, what are your most common questions? What are your most common answers?' You'll be surprised at how quickly you have a really extensive internal social knowledge base that you can then re-purpose however you see fit.

We used Hobsons when we created an FAQ system. I sent the majority of the questions to our current students and I said, 'Can you guys answer these? You guys are on the phones, you guys are taking people on tours. You know the right answers.' Now when it came back to me, all I had to do was edit for content, add links, that kind of stuff. But I was not writing from scratch. I was thinking bricks, not buildings, at that point.


Another thing you can do is then take it public. You've probably heard of a couple of these, but Get Satisfaction is one of them. You can take that idea of a social knowledge base public to allow users to vote up and down different questions, concerns that they have. You can also insert your own internal database. So if you've developed that, put that online. You're helping them before they even need help.

And then UserVoice is more of a full-blown CRM, but think of that as like a ticketing system where people ask questions, people are looking against your database. If you end up answering something that they have as a question, whoever is customer support here could add that back into the FAQ. You need to think about constantly updating that FAQ.


And one of the things you can learn from is... How many of you work in IT here? Do you have a ticketing system, a help desk or something like that where people come in? Learn from that. Explain that to your marketing department, because that's a concept that I don't understand why we aren't using in marketing.

Because when a ticket comes in and you need to clear it and you need to clear it quickly, look at these CRM tools to do this. Understand that process. Don't just say, 'Well, yeah, I'll respond on Twitter when they ask.' You're not doing enough if you're just responding on Twitter. Or if you have 15 people responding, how are you going to scale that? You need to think about using some of these tools to actually respond quickly to people in clear tickets.

So really all these come down to is focus on being proactive and not reactive. Building an internal social knowledge base is being proactive. You're building those questions and building the answers for your public before they even ask those questions. If you're being reactive, you're probably going to miss out on some opportunities to respond to other people.


I talked about that crisis at Emerson College beforehand. What I wish we had when we went into that is some site to put updates about the college in an emergency. After that example, that's what we actually built. We built a place to go if there was an emergency on campus we had to send people to go to.

Sending out a link on Twitter to find more information and a quick two-word, three-word thing to send them to spreads way more quickly than just saying, 'Trying to answer every single person in one post.' So if you have this knowledge base set up where you can lead people to, you're being very proactive in trying to respond to customers and not reacting as things happen.

Now the big juggernauts that we always talk about in customer service and social media is Facebook and Twitter. I'm not going to spend a ton of time telling you how to actually respond and what to say on these platforms, but just think about these things if you're going to start a Facebook presence, start a Twitter presence within this focused area.


The first thing you need to do is scale smart. You should be listening for the people talking about you. Reach out to them and say, 'We're going to start a presence. Do you want to be involved with this?'

The best thing you can do to try to get 24/7 customer service is just give recognition to the people trying to help you. That's all they want. They don't want to get paid. They don't want to hear from the college everyday to say, 'Oh, you probably shouldn't have answered it that way, ' and 'Can you do this?' Develop a good relationship, a positive relationship with them first, and then bring them into your platform to have them help you.

And then if you're wondering how to tell them to respond to some things, I know that's the big question is, 'What do we write back? Do we say anything if somebody posts something?' I think DePaul University, I don't know if anybody's here from DePaul? Oh, cool. I saw basically a flow chart that was created by DePaul that talks about, it's just a quick guide for someone new to the space and how conversations happen in social media. Well, that's just a link to go to if you want to find. It just links to the PDF there. But I think it's a really good example of a customized way to look at Facebook and Twitter and responding, and even blog posts, if you have a blog out there and you're wondering if you should respond.


I want to give a quick example about using Twitter in a way, and I talked before about how customer service is actually marketing, using a good customer service experience to market your college.

Here's one of the things we did on Twitter. It actually just happened a couple of weeks ago and I just wanted to explain that. What happened was we had an open house. We had a student post this: "Can Emerson College and I get married already? Such a great day." That's perfect. That's exactly what you want. You want to hear that.

How do you turn this into, number one, a customer service opportunity, and number two, a marketing opportunity? So this is what we decided to write back to the student. Number one, you can see that we didn't just @reply the student. If we just @replied the student and posted thanks, most colleges would probably do that. What's happening, though, is you're losing out on a marketing opportunity there.


A student said something amazing about your college. You ask your students all the time to give you quotes, give you profiles, give you feedback for your college website. They're doing that on Twitter already for you. Use that as a marketing opportunity.

The other thing that we did is we introduced this #soemerson hashtag. This is a hashtag used by our students, used by us, some of the faculty to basically talk about some of the...sometimes it's stereotypical information about the college, sometimes it's really fun. Most of the time, it's students talking about how they're constantly busy, how they're always doing work, they're always doing projects, they're involved in everything in the world, they're getting ridiculous internships. It's like the way of patting their own back and saying that.

The other thing is Twitter is really popular on campus, so we wanted to introduce this student to our Twitter community at the college. That's why we included that #soemerson hashtag because it felt like an Emersonian kind of thing to do, even though this is a prospective student not even here yet.

This is the way the student responded to that, then. So the student had a great experience, the student had a good customer experience. We had an amazing marketing opportunity, and the student has a lasting hashtag to go to because she probably clicked on that hashtag, never knew about it, started reading all the tweets about what's going on at Emerson College, and now thought, 'Oh, my God, this is a great school!' and will continue to interact with those students.


So you're building customer service, you're building marketing, and you're building community all in one tweet. So you think about it that way in how to respond to people. Try to find those opportunities.

I think a company that's doing this really well is Xbox. It sounds weird to say, 'Xbox is doing customer service really well.' Well, what is it? Just think of how many issues there are with an online gaming system, connectivity, games you could possibly have, anything like that, and I can tell you right now that Xbox is doing it in a really interesting way where they built out a really extensive FAQ site, community-driven site, on the left-hand side where you can see that you can go there any point publicly and ask questions, whatever you need.


The other thing on top of that is what they're doing is they have a really amazing staff that's looking at Twitter everyday and responding to people's needs and wants on Twitter. Most cases, they'll just have a quick answer, or if they have a more extensive answer, they'll lead people back into the site that they've developed.

So think about that whole proactive/reactive thing. If you're building out all the answers up front on Twitter, you'll have a much easier job because you're not trying to respond to people in 140 characters what the answer is. Or you're trying to say, 'Hey, DM so-and-so for more info.' You're always doing that. Just create the actual internal database first and then lead them back into that section.

Lastly, I want to talk through measuring, because I think measuring is one of the things that we get so busy with trying to respond all the time where we don't actually measure in the long run. There's a thousand tools out there that you could use, whether it's SurveyMonkey or Wufoo or whatever the sites are that you want to use for surveying out your students.


But I want to focus on one key point. I don't want to focus on the tools here. You need to focus where their complaints can go. If they're complaining on Twitter to everyone in the world, everybody hears that. Everybody hears how bad that customer experience was.

If you're surveying your students, your parents, whoever your audience is, your customers, if you're sending them an opportunity to respond to you, just like the session paperwork here, we told you to go to Twitter to respond to what the session was, and you had a bad experience with this session, I don't want you telling everyone that follows you and then having them tell everyone that follows them that's a bad experience. I want to take that and learn from that experience right away, and the best way to do that is think about controlling the megaphone from them talking.

One thing to think of is that feedback, this feedback that you're getting, is very powerful. But it's only powerful when it actually leads to change.


It's great to know everything that people are saying about you. That's great. What are you doing about it? Do something. Change your process. Look at yourself and say, 'Well, maybe this is a confusing process for somebody. Maybe we are the ones that aren't doing it right.'

So many times we say, 'Oh, they're so stupid. They can't figure it out.' It's probably your fault that they can't figure it out. That's why we have designers, that's why we have people that know UI really well. That's why we have people that look at a process and say, 'Well, how does it work?' You need to constantly tweak that whole process and use that survey feedback to lead to change.

So why does all of this matter? We're looking at customer service. Yeah, that's a great thing to insert into your school because it's kind of a good deed. You're looking at it as that.

Think about this now. 'Social graph', now that term has been used by Facebook a lot to talk about how your interactions on the Web are going, but this is dominating the way that we're using the Web as a whole.


Now we're not just going to Facebook to talk to other people or find out recommendations. Think about when you go anywhere on the internet how many times you're seeing what your friends are liking, what your friends are talking about.

Everything that people are saying about your company is being spread by the customers of your company and your content you hope that they share, but in most cases, someone's going to see what their friends said about you before they see your mass-marketed message that's out there.

Companies that are putting buttons like this at the top of their site are at least trying to get their content into that marketplace to get people talking about.

But just some examples,CNN you go on the right side, you can see every story that your friend is sharing. ESPN, you can see what the most shares are, the top headlines, what people are talking about.

Even Bing, you go to Bing and you search for a sushi place and you can see three other friends that like that on Facebook where maybe that's going to lead you to go to that a little bit more. Even Google, you go to Google and look up a blog and you're going to see which one of your friends +1 an article from that, a +1 anything from that, liked it.


What your customers are saying about you, I know this is kind of a weird way to think of it or I'm going out on a ledge, may matter just as much as what your marketing plan is. What your content is and what they're saying about you has just as much impact on their perception of your college than that gorgeous brochure that you put out there that you're hoping that they're going to see in the mail.

If they're getting that brochure in the mail and they're looking at it and they don't tell a friend about it, you're missing an opportunity. But if they go to a piece of content on your website, talk about it, say, 'Oh my God, I'd love to go to the film program there,' every one of their friends has seen that same marketing that you put out there.

This is a funnel that I saw from Jeremiah, who writes amazing stuff. You should probably follow him on Twitter right now. Really good organizational social media strategy. If you look at that purchase point for the customer hourglass, that's usually where it would stop in the past.


Once you get that purchase, once you get that lead, once you get the student into your system, once you get them to graduate, that's where it would end. We can see now the funnel has an inverse on the other side.

The first thing you need to think of is support. After that purchase, what are you doing to support that person afterwards? What that support you want that to grow into is loyalty for all of your customers. You want them to be loyal to you. You want them to go back to you for anything that they need.

Lastly, this is where we talk about finding ambassadors. It's basically advocacy. They're going to share your content. They're going to talk about you in a positive light. You want them to keep going through this cycle where, at that point of the next purchase, a student comes into your system as a recruit, that point of purchase you hope will lead to advocacy so that they talk about applying to your school.

The next purchase point is they get their acceptance letter. You want to have them loyal to you so they actually deposit at your college.


What happens after they deposit? You need to be there for them talking to them, setting up community for them, introducing them to all the current students that are there, all the incoming students that are also there, so that they actually go through the system of your school and have the support that they need.

Mark talked about retention. This is such an important point, because we don't want to let them go after they end their cycle. Customer service helps tremendously when it comes to retention because of this.

Lastly, I do want to give some time for Question & Answer and just have people share their thoughts on what works and customer service at their school, but I think one of the things that I wanted to show you was Gary Vaynerchuk who talked about his book, "The Thank You Economy". Now I have a couple of books to hand out just for people that ask questions about the end of this.

He kind of summed this up, and he summed this up to people that talk about business everyday. They're talking about business, but they're not recognizing the impact of social media.

So I'll play this quick clip for you.


Video 1: There's somebody, there's a company now that's actually trying to do this, trying to do a social search engine that's going to be totally based on your social graph. I can't remember the woman from, the one who did Flickr.

Video 2: Yeah, well, couldn't you mean Hunch? Caterina Fake?

Video 1: Yes, it's Caterina Fake. Yes.

Video 2: They're wonderful and new partner, but let me tell you who's going to be doing this. It's a small company called Google. And so what I don't think people understand is that Google dropped a bomb the other day. It's been SEO and all this other stuff, and I've always been very down on that stuff. It's going to be based on your social graph. If I link to a resort in Maui and you search Google for 'Maui resorts' and you're following me on Twitter, you are going to see that on the first page.

This is a calm before the social media storm. This is 2000 all over again. The internet came out, it had a lot of hype, the market crashed, people can see returns, and people left it. Borders didn't believe in it, they gave Amazon the infrastructure, they're out of business. Blockbuster didn't believe in it, they let Netflix come in and put them out of business.

Social media has had a lot of hype the last two years. The next three are going to be soft because people are not going to figure out the ROI, and then people are going to be put out of business, and huge businesses are going to blow up and explode and take over in 2013, 2014, 2015.


Video 3: Wow.

Video 2: Yeah. That's what's happening.

Video 3: Wow!

Video 4: Yeah, you just blew everyone's mind.

Mike Petroff: Wow, right? People that talk about business everyday don't even know about this yet. You guys do because you're in it everyday. You're on Twitter, you're on all these platforms.

So summing it up, it's really just about these three key words when it comes to customer service and trying to improve it.

Number one is listening. People always forget that step. Make sure you're listening to your public before you build anything.

The next step is build. Build that infrastructure so that all of the questions are answered beforehand. Know what the questions are coming in before you do anything.

And then start building out all of your platforms that can scale. Like Facebook, like Twitter, like community-driven sites, we always try to build those first and then put content in, and then listen to what they're doing.

We go through this in the reverse cycle. So if we start with listening first, then build, then scale, I think at that point you can do better in your customer service.


So I want to open it up to the audience. And I'll just pick a few people and hand out some books as people ask questions, but I think we can probably lead this out and turn this around.

I'll switch to the slide just so you guys can... If you want to follow up or any of this kind of stuff, just give me a shout on here. I'm sure we have some time for this kind of stuff.

Does anybody have any questions that they like to come up? Or if you're just going to want to line up right here onto the microphone, that's great. And I would love to hear your thoughts on what you're doing with the customer service at your school or things that work for you. But just feel free to come on right up, there's a microphone there, and ask some questions.

We have about 10 minutes left, so we'll try to go pretty quick here.

Audience 1: Hi, Mike.

Mike Petroff: How's it going?

Audience 1: OK.

I'm just wondering if you do anything in your listening, I know something that we do at Ithaca is making sure that we include misspellings, because Ithaca, especially, is often misspelled. Do you do any variations like that or try to push certain hashtags for events, anything around that that is part of your monitoring when you're responding, or just in monitoring in general?


Mike Petroff: Yeah, definitely.

Number one, we definitely monitor misspellings or phrases that we like to use internally. I think Finn and I were talking before about whether it's 'enrollment' or 'deposit', I forget what the question was. It's like what your common terminology is for your school.

You should go to analytics and look at the search terms people are finding, the keywords they're putting in to find your school and use that information to your advantage if you're building out any meta tags or anything that you're building out that way.

It also applies on social media. If there's a common misspelling of your school, or like Emerson, everybody calls us Emerson University. I wish we were; that would be great if we were a university. But we're Emerson College.


So you need to put a Google Alert out there for 'Emerson University' because someone might ask that question on Yahoo! Answers and say, 'Can I get into Emerson University?' If you don't search for that, you're going to miss that opportunity to talk to them.

And then also provide them a link back to your site. You don't want to be a jerk and say, 'Oh, it's actually Emerson College. You'd never get in.' You don't want say that to the student. You want to say, 'Hey, here's the website. If you have any questions, here's our counselors.'

So I definitely believe in looking for those. That's a good point.

Audience 2: Hi. I'm just interested a little bit more about your student ambassador program. I don't have this now, but I would love to, and I can see the future of how this would be awesome, but I don't know what first steps to take to get there.

Mike Petroff: Sure. Do you have tour guides at your college?

Audience 2:

Mike Petroff: Do you work with admission?

Audience 2: Yeah.

Mike Petroff: I'd point to them first, see if any of those would be interested in the opportunity to help you with a social media program. That's a great place to start.

We have students that work in our office that's customer support, answering phone calls, questions, where the questions that roll in at certain times of the year are very busy but other times are pretty soft, so I would include those students who are already talking about your school.


Also, listen for people talking about you on blogs, on social media already. Reach out to them. They might not be the typical, prototypical student that you look for normally.

The other thing is just, if you have a big athletics program, people are giving tours for athletes that are coming in. What I did to help develop this at Emerson is I went to talk to marketing classes, I went to talk to different groups on campus, student groups and organizations, as a person.

I'm like, 'Hey, how many of you follow @EmersonCollege? I'm one of the people behind it and we would love you to help us with that account.' So I think, go to them and talk to them in person first, and then develop from there. But talk to people that are already talking about your school.

Audience 2: Thank you.

Mike Petroff: Sure.

Audience 3: Hey. Love what you're saying about using social media for customer service.

Now, with somebody who has limited time and resources in a department, how do you think they balance the kind of priority they're given of doing a bunch of listening and reactive versus proactive stuff? I think rule of thumb, I know it's hard to generalize, but I don't know if you have any feedback on how to balance the two?


Mike Petroff: What makes money for your college? Your incoming students. And I'm partial to this because of admission. Look at those purchase points for incoming students first. Don't try to start an entire customer service model for your entire college, for your incoming students, current students, parents, every audience. Focus on one audience first and figure out the best process for that one audience.

Develop all the questions in advance. Find brand ambassadors who can talk about your program. And if you focus on that, then you can scale from there. But I think people just tend to scale immediately and want to cover everything and then miss out on some questions.

So I'd say find that niche group first at your college and focus on where your goals are. If your goals are certain areas, focus on that one goal and improve customer service there.

Audience 3: Awesome.

Mike Petroff: Thanks.

Audience 4: Probably a simple question, but how do you find out the hashtags that students are using? Do you stumble across...

Mike Petroff: I would start with, as soon as a student posts about your school, and I know Twitter lists are limited to 500 users, maybe create two or three, create a private Twitter list of people talking about your school. 


Because what happens is then you can follow that list to see if any hashtags start cropping up there because you're listening to the people talking about your school. It's difficult to find that if you're just searching. They're not going to hashtag #soemerson and then something else. They're going to start with this new one.

A quick example is that we had our president make a surprise announcement a year and a half ago on campus. A student started a hashtag called #jackiessecret. Our president was Jackie Liebergott. I would've never known that unless I knew the students talking about our college.

So I'd say an easy way to do that is probably just a Twitter list. Just keep adding students to it and then following that, see if there's... I mean, if there's one or two that come through, that's not too many to worry about, but then if there's a trend and you start seeing it and you're paying attention, you're all of a sudden seeing 15, 20, 30 students using that hashtag, then you can figure out how to respond from that point.

Yes. Five minutes.


OK, any other questions that come up? I can also repeat a question if you don't want to walk up to the mike. Does anybody have any experience that they've ever had working in admission or with current students, alums that they want to talk about quickly at all when it comes to customer service?

OK. Yeah.

Audience 5: I'll just reiterate what you said about this thing, this biggest thing, private social network as it appears to be used as an expanded Facebook page, basically. And by being in there, you have the tendencies or constantly we'd dedicate at least an hour a day and we'd find the ambassadors, the tour guides, everybody who's active on social media. We get recommendations from faculty to make a career.

And by the end of this session, we've started to identify incoming students who were now accepted and about to start as, 'Hey, you're going to be somebody who's really active when you're here as a student. Do you want to be an administrator on our Facebook group?'


Mike Petroff: That's a really good point.

So just to repeat that, it's about creating internal communities for your students listening there, and then turning that into opportunities to use those students to promote your school at a later point. And now it all goes back to customer service is marketing. If they have a good customer experience, they're going to market for you later.

And I'll give a quick example of that is that what we use our internal communities for for listening is that I go to a weekly operations meeting for once we accept students, just listening to concerns of students, anything like that, with housing, with the registrar, with advising. There's a few groups on campus that get together, and I'm there because I'm listening to them on social platforms.

So I'm bringing up any concerns that I know they'll have next week because the students are going to start talking about it there. Or if there's misinformation out there, you're going to see that in advance and then go back to housing and say, 'Hey, all these students are talking about how their room numbers are messed up on their sheets. Did you hear any feedback?' 'Yeah, we got one email, but we didn't think it was a big deal.' I'm like, 'Well, there's 80 students talking about it on Facebook. You should send out an email to respond to them to answer that question.'


So I think listening, you should be responding to it if you notice questions, concerns, issues as they pop up, but it's really important just to be there, be aware your students are talking about your college.

Great. I think that just about wraps it up. If you want to get in touch later, just find me on Twitter.

Also, just another site. If you want to connect with other people on network here, just check out It's a new site that I'm launching pretty soon.

One last question here? Sure.

Audience 6: You talked about the social knowledge base. [Indiscernible]?

Mike Petroff: Sure.

First thing is, find the most common questions. Come up with the top 20 questions that come in to whatever department it is.

Next thing, an easy way to do it, is if you have a Google account, start a shared doc, a shared spreadsheet, and reach out to your constituents across campus and get them to answer the questions for you what's the best answer for that, what's the link that they should provide students in answer to.


And then third, if you want to put that public, there's a thousand different smart FAQ engines that are out there. But really, what the purpose of that is is to bring that public at some point in an organized way so that if people are asking questions on these social platforms that require a quick response, you can link them back to that social base rather than trying to answer the question at that point.

Great. Well, I just want to thank everybody for attending, and I definitely hope that this improves what you can do on customer service on your campus. And think about this when you're thinking about marketing when it comes to social media.

Thanks, guys.


Mike Petroff: The people that asked questions, if you want to come on to the front, I'll hand out some swag for you. Thanks.