As the first touchpoint for customers, call centres may be the best method of dealing with queries and complaints – which is why they should stay on top of their social media activity.
Discussing the need for social media has virtually been done to death. Most companies have recognised the need to add social media to their extensive multichannel call centre mix of phone, IVR, email and chat – but few have actually asked how or investigated why (beyond the arbitrary explanation that it is ‘popular’).
This year, a study led by professor Janna Quitney Anderson coined a new phrase to encapsulate the new generation of consumers: Gen AO, the Always-On Generation. Born in the early 2000s, they have been influenced by connectivity and the easy, instant access to information through the Internet.
They consider e-mails and advertising to be passé – in fact, many universities have stopped issuing students with email addresses because they weren’t being used. In other words, social media is not just a popular timewaster or a networking opportunity – it has actually changed user patterns to the extent that channels such as voice and e-mail may become obsolete.
Focus on your staff
Whereas directors and executives define the new objectives and strategies behind social media with enthusiasm, they often forget how crucial the people element is when introducing the challenge to staff. Supervisors have to prepare agents for the new role, coach them, and keep them motivated.
Even the most prolific Facebook users will need to be trained and managed intensively during the process. To truly turn social media a successful customer communication channel, operators need to focus on people and not on technology.
The simplest way to do this is by making use of a hosted service provider who can manage issues like integration, maintenance, backups and licensing. Once operators shift their focus to training and not technology, the headaches experienced during the transitional period is lessened.
Seamless integration is key
It’s not to say that technology is not important – it’s crucial. But it needs to be handled by companies for whom call centre technology is their core business. One of the biggest mistakes contact centres make is to silo their centre by media: having one function dealing with email, another deals with web chat, another deals with enquiries, and so forth. It’s the equivalent of tacking mismatched rooms onto an existing house: there is an extent of functionality, but ultimately a customer is faced with a disjointed and inefficient experience. Single vendor solutions created through acquisition often have the same operational integration issues – seeming attractive on paper but failing to perform.
If social media (or any multichannel offering) is to work, it has be seamless – a single contact centre platform that supports holistic multi-media interaction. Calls that are followed up with an email with a click, emails that link to chat…and consistent quality across each channel.
Another false assumption that companies make is that social media is just another way of speaking to their customers, when it is actually a new way of listening to them. When we started offering integration with Salesforce.com last year, there was some scepticism about the decision.
However, the ability that the product gives call centres to monitor customer conversations in the realm of social media and respond to them is incredibly effective. An agent can literally view data in a sales app, answer queries made via social media, and post the answers instantly in Twitter or Facebook. This can also be fed into NetPromoter Scores. Not only is the issue resolved, it’s resolved publicly – becoming, as it were, an instant, credible testimonial.
Make it personable
We’ve all heard someone complaining they “want to speak to a human being” when making an enquiry or a complaint. The ability to not only put a name, but a face, to a call centre agent handling a query is extremely powerful and goes a long way to make a customer feel both heard and valued.
Centres are now able to create personalised profiles with bios and photos of their social media agents and create platforms where customers can interact, share information and demonstrate solutions. It has also proven to be a useful research tool: companies can test how customers feel about new services, products and changes within the contact centre before launching them.
The rule of thumb for customer service is ultimately to speak to your customers where they are: if they are making queries on Facebook or Twitter, that is where they should be met and addressed.
Do not neglect the other channels
Social media is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Venting customers or those with complex complaints and technical issues cannot be handled effectively via the platform. Agents need to know the difference between a situation that can resolved with social media, and those that can’t. They should also be able to move effortlessly from social media onto a different platform, such as chat or voice. Providing proper guidelines and training is crucial in this regard.
More importantly, monitoring tools need to be in place so that customer interactions can still be captured and played back. A social media connector for your contact centre management software should give you the ability to monitor conversations across a variety of platforms, alert the appropriate people and enable them to respond quickly and easily from within their main application.
Supervisors still need to be able to intrude on interactions and monitor them in real-time so that agents can be coached and quality maintained. Managers still need the ability to mine and capture data for reporting purposes. Social media, in other words, has to be treated exactly the same as voice and other traditional channels.
Social media is no longer a fringe issue. It needs to be integrated into the daily workflow of contact centres and it needs to be done well. Unfortunately, it is a complex and unpredictable platform to use that should not be navigated without expertise. Companies should be sure to engage with experienced technology partners to realise their social media goals and give them the capacity to deal with their most valuable asset: the staff driving the strategy.