Today’s support executives are awash in an ocean of data. The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) members receive, on average, over 51,000 support incidents a month, across phone, email, Web chat, and online incidents, each filled with critical information about products and services. CRM, incident management, and telephony systems track hundreds of metrics—the TSIA Support Services benchmark itself surveys members for more than 300 individual operational, financial, and quality metrics.

To add to this mass of information, new social media tools are creating even more customer interactions across social networks and microblogging, with customer communities and online discussion forums spawning huge libraries of information. Eighty-five percent of TSIA members expect to have a discussion forum available for customers in 2011.

Adoption of other social media avenues for customer support is also growing, with over half of members offering video content on sites such as YouTube, nearly half of members interacting with customers via microblogging tools such as Twitter, and over a quarter of members leveraging social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to support customers. In all, TSIA members estimate that between eight and 14% of total customer interactions in 2011 will be handled via social media.

The statistics are staggering, yet there’s no hiding from them. I suspect that the number of social content sources that contain valuable customer information will continue to proliferate, just as the number of data sources that contain customer information behind the firewall do so as well. It’s the nature of the information proliferation beast.

However, this means that customer service departments require new technology to make sense of all this unstructured data, combine it with structured data, and create actionable knowledge through the combination of search, knowledge management and customer experience management. This delivers a new level of Knowledge Insight for customer service and support teams. Imagine the power of combining content from social channels with customer information contained in your CRM, knowledge base, ticketing system, bug database, and more. You gain a much more powerful view – and much more insight – into your customer and customer base. You can finally bring order to the social media chaos, better serve your customers, and improve vital customer support statistics at the same time.

The transparency of social media channels has raised customer expectations. Organizations that embrace this transparency are beginning to leverage social media channels as additional sources of knowledge that can be turned into actionable insight. Having a deeper understanding of, and more insight into, a customer account will help sales and support organizations better know, better serve, and ultimately sell more to their customers.