The Social Media Divide: Contact Centers Need to Stake their Claim on the Social Frontier

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The Social Media Divide: Contact Centers Need to Stake their Claim on the Social Frontier

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  April 09, 2013

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of CUSTOMER Magazine.

For all the talk about social media being just another channel in the multi-channel contact center, the fact is that few businesses today have a proactive approach to social media when it comes to customer service.

Sure, marketing folks are communicating their messages on social media – and may be listening and learning from Facebook (News - Alert), Twitter and other social media to better understand what consumers like and don’t like. But because marketing departments typically take ownership of social media, customer service operations like contact centers often have little if any role in the social media play.

Web self-service and e-mail dominate the non-phone-call mix of contact channels, but social media are playing a critical role, according to CFI Group (News - Alert), which recently issued the results of its annual customer service study. The role of social media is not as a first-line service channel, according to CFIGroup, but rather as a damage control mechanism.

Customers who posted their experience with a contact center in social media and then received subsequent follow-up via social media concerning their experience rated their final satisfaction with the contact center experience nearly 20 percent higher than those who received no follow-up, CGI Group (News - Alert) says. Furthermore, consumers who ranked their likelihood to recommend the company in these cases increased by almost 15 percent.

But Terry Redding, director of product development and delivery at CFI Group, says that people who are looking for customer service are not really using social media as a way to reach out to companies. However, he adds that some of that may be a self-fulfilling prophesy given that most companies don’t offer a customer service contact mechanism on their Facebook page. That’s at least in part because, overwhelmingly, it’s still the marketing group that owns social media, and marketing folks don’t have much interest in the customer service side of things.

However Redding, among many others in the customer experience space, believes that contact centers will take some ownership of social media in the not-too-distant future.  That is probably a year or two into the future because of the state of available tools, Redding indicates. He adds that such tools are starting to come together quickly and are likely to make an appearance in contact centers in the next year.

John Hernandez, vice president and general manager of customer collaboration at Cisco (News - Alert), says that it already has a tool called Social Miner that is offered as part of its contact center solutions. Social Miner allows customers to take in all social interactions and present it as an actionable item that enables the contact rep to respond to it.

For example, Social Miner could enable an airline to identify a passenger who tweeted that his luggage was lost. The tool could also tie into the airline’s customer data base to see that the passenger is a frequent flier, so the airline could in turn text or email the individual to offer to have the passenger’s luggage sent to his home via a courier, or that the passenger is not a regular with the airline, so the airline could simply send a message recognizing the inconvenience and suggesting where and when his luggage will be available.

So, as you can see, such tools do exist and can enable businesses to offer both a better experience and a more personalized one. However, while Social Miner is available as part of some 800,000 Cisco contact center licenses, Hernandez says this capability is sitting dormant on many of those systems waiting for the business communities’ transition of social media from marketing to the contact center.

Companies who want to leverage social media both for customer service and/or for marketing purposes should look for a solution that integrates CRM into the mix, according to Ted Sapountzis, head of marketing and product development at NextPrinciples.

The company in late January launched Insight-To-Action, a solution designed to help medium-to-large organizations create, manage and monitor across all channels relationships with customers, influencers and prospects. NextPrinciples is integrated with CRM solutions from, SugarCRM and Microsoft (News - Alert) Dynamics. “In today’s fragmented marketplace, many social tools help brands either listen to or engage with customers,” said Satya Krishnaswamy, founder and CEO of NextPrinciples. “Insight-To-Action not only provides an integrated platform for those social interactions but – most importantly – integrates seamlessly with CRM systems. CRM integration is crucial to providing a consistent and superior customer experience across all channels.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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