Social media channels and contact centers can play together

Proper staffing, training and strategies can make social media channels work wonders in a contact center, according to industry observers.

Chances are contact center agents are not strangers to social media. Most probably use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites in their personal lives.

Yet, regardless of how adeptly they navigate the terrain on their own, there is no shortage of hurdles to overcome once the company makes social media channels a touch point for customer service.

And, almost inevitably, it will. There is a universal consensus among contact center professionals that social media has emerged as a viable, even necessary part of the customer service mix.

“[The contact center] needs to be there as an organization because their customers are there,” said Brad Cleveland, a consultant and former president of the International Customer Management Institute.

They can pick up on what customers are asking for, gather competitive intelligence and get input on products and services. They can learn a ton.

What organizations have to do first is deploy social media as a valuable customer support channel, not to mention seamlessly integrate it as part of a multichannel customer support strategy. With that in mind, here are five of the most treacherous pitfalls organizations encounter when unleashing social media on a contact center–along with practical tips on how to minimize risk, if not avoid it all together:

Social media channels in isolation. Whether it’s giving contact center agents free rein with social media, not coordinating with other customer service channels or assigning a different department to interact with consumers on Twitter or Facebook, analysts contend the outcome is the same: Different sets of rules and interactions ultimately lead to inconsistent customer service.

You want to have a seamless experience and deliver the kinds of services and answers that go out through the other channels,” Cleveland said. “You want it to be a seamless, brand-building, high-value experience for customers.

For that, you need to put the right cross-functional structures in place so what customers are being promised on the phone and what they are told in social media exchanges is the same.

For example, if non-reimbursement of fees is a company policy, it needs to be upheld in both traditional contact center and social media exchanges.

Viewing social media as a panacea. The inherent limitation of Twitter’s 140-character string impedes the ability to solve complex problems in this venue, contact center pros caution.

Instead, they advise customer support teams to use Twitter as a vehicle for letting irate customers know their issues have been heard. It can then be used to advise customers of the proper protocols that take the subsequent problem solving offline.

It’s a way to say, ‘I hear you,’ but not for resolution typically,” said Paul Greenberg, president of the consultancy, The 56 Group.

“It can help solve small issues when the level of anger of the customer isn’t great, but for major issues, it should only be used in the onboarding process as a means of saying, ‘Hey, follow me, but DM [direct message] me your phone number so I can call you for follow up.‘ ”

Insufficient staffing and service-level planning. Many organizations move forward with social media without the same attention to planning and forecasting they give to other customer-facing channels, according to customer service observers.

This could mean they do not have a true sense of how many tweets the customer service organization will be handling on a daily basis or what volume of interaction will be required on Facebook.

The danger, Cleveland said, is implying you’ll be online with service and then not being prepared to deliver, leaving tweets unanswered and Facebook posts languishing.

You don’t open an airline and have the wrong number of people around the counter or on the plane itself,” he said. “It’s just like any other kind of service–you have to plan accordingly.

Having a clear picture of the appropriate service-level expectations for social media channel is also paramount to a program’s success,” said Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC.


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