Social Customer Service: It's Changing, But Not Replacing, the Traditional Call Center Business


Social Customer Service: It's Changing, But Not Replacing, the Traditional Call Center Business

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor  |  March 18, 2015

A few years ago, many companies faced what might be termed The Great Social Media Panic. Business analysts warned us that soon, we would have to throw out all our traditional customer care channels to replace them with new ones. These would be video, social media, mobile app, and whatever new and exciting channel was being used in Silicon Valley. (Digital smoke signals? Handshake-over-IP?)

But it was social media that really caused the panic. We saw examples of hip companies that were using social media in exciting ways and building giant families of their workers and their customers. (At least that’s how it seemed.) We wondered if we should just throw out our telephones.

“When social customer care first started to gain momentum, many interpreted this as the end of ‘traditional customer service,’” wrote Guy Stephens for the website Social Media Today in a recent blog post. “Email, the telephone, the contact center, the letter – these would be replaced by Twitter, Facebook (News - Alert), and communities. It sounded so easy, so appealing, so simple.”

Except it didn’t happen – at least not in the way that some had predicted. It turns out that customers still want and need live help a fixed percentage of the time. Sometimes a chat is necessary to settle an issue, and many customers still want to be able to compose an email to a company. What has happened is that these social media channels have combined with more traditional channels to make something new. Think of Amazon’s Mayday button; it’s a button a customer pushes to initiate a live video chat with an agent on the screen of the customer’s Kindle Fire. A new channel that supports an old idea: face-to-face problem solving. Despite the hype, we still need the call center more than ever.

“And yet, despite the new words, the new models, the disruption, the fragmentation, the contact center is still here, email is still here, average handling time and first contact resolution are still here,” wrote Stephens. “Even the fax is still here (albeit only just). Customers still churn, customers still complain. Companies still fail; occasionally delight.”

What companies today do need to do (instead of throwing out their telephones and email management systems) is integrate social channels into the broader contact center infrastructure so they can be handled just like any other communications media. Agents with a flair for social media need to be identified and scheduled (yes, using the contact center’s humdrum workforce management system) to handle these communications just like they would handle calls in a queue.

It sounds complicated, but many of today’s contact center platforms make it easy. Call center on demand solutions provider Five9 (News - Alert) allows contact centers to add advanced social media engagement capabilities to their customer service programs with a set of tools designed to manage social customer engagement. Contact center agents can use these tools to respond to problems and issues posted to social channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (News - Alert) , blogs, articles, and online communities, ensuring that complaints and questions are handled just as if they came into the contact center via telephone. It’s a way to keep up with the social media revolution and meet customer expectations, but it doesn’t require you to throw out your call center infrastructure and start over again. 

Tracey E. Schelmetic is a contributor to TMCnet, the online entity of CUSTOMER magazine parent company TMC (News - Alert).

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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