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4/17/2012
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Kana Bolsters Customer Support With Social Tools

Online service specialist aims to help companies improve customer support by turning social listening and engagement into action.

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Kana Software proclaimed itself ready to translate social media analytics into action with a product release announced Tuesday.

"Previously, there was kind of a chasm between what social analytics tools provide us and actionability--what customer service tools need to do," said Ajay Khanna, senior director of product marketing at Kana Software. Kana's social media listening and engagement software will be able to create cases in a customer support case management system or act like business process management software, initiating processes in different enterprise systems as necessary to address a customer complaint or question. That's the difference between the social CRM solutions produced by startups, and this one, from an established online support company, he said.

[ What does the world's biggest market want? See Gnip Now Shares Social Sentiments From China.]

Kana got its start in 1996 as a specialist in managing customer service email, which was the start of what became its Service Experience Management suite for integrating all sorts of online communication with contact center operations. A year ago this month, Kana bought Overtone, a privately held social media monitoring startup. That was just a week after Salesforce.com announced the acquisition of Radian6, part of an explosion of interest in the many applications of social media analytics.

The Overtone product became Kana Experience Analytics, a social media monitoring platform with text analytics and natural language processing capabilities to flag keywords and tease out the meaning of posts. Now Kana said it is ready to treat Experience Analytics as a more integral part of the platform, identifying important social conversations that require a response and routing them to the appropriate agents along with all the contextual information the agents need to respond effectively.

Although social CRM tools have been proliferating rapidly, Kana argues that few have been designed to address key contact center business requirements such as process management, measurement, and governance.

Every social CRM system has to deal with the challenge of matching the authors of social media posts with specific customer records, and Khanna acknowledged that this doesn't always happen. However, that's not so different from the world of email response, where the angry note from sexygal123@aol.com may not immediately match up with the record of the person who ordered a blender from an e-commerce site last week. Even when a person's identity is unclear, agents can reach out to address an issue by providing links to knowledge base articles, or by directing the customer to an online support form where they can be prompted to identify themselves and their issue more clearly. The system is also designed to learn from these interactions, further building the knowledge base for better response to future inquiries.

While many other vendors claim to address the same issues, Khanna doesn't believe his company is playing catch-up. "Some of the actionability in those other products is still mediocre," he said.

In a quote supplied for the press release, Mitchell Kramer, analyst and senior consultant with Patricia Seybold Group, credited Kana with tackling the right problem. "To date, there has been a tremendous chasm between social media platforms and traditional customer service platforms," he said. "Social media listening tools alone are not the ideal technology platforms from which to deliver social customer service. Additional tools are needed to bridge the gaps amongst listening engines, social applications, traditional customer service, and CRM applications.

"There is tremendous value in social listening and engagement solution platforms that are engineered for customer service and that integrate the contact center," Kramer continued. "These platforms automate the analysis of social posts, the creation of cases from them, and the routing of these cases to customer service systems for most appropriate handling."

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

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