Social media is rapidly changing the face of the customer service industry. Networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter have given rise to a new breed of customer – one with a loud voice, and a number of very public platforms through which to make it heard.
The immediate and very public nature of social media sites can have enormous ramifications for companies, with increasing numbers of users taking to these sites to either applaud or berate their customer service experiences, writes Deon Scheepers, head of sales and business development, Interative Intelligence Africa.
As South Africa’s connectivity levels begin to skyrocket, an increasing number of customers are becoming empowered by the benefits of the social media mix and are becoming more and more likely to use these channels as a means to converse with – or about – any given brand.
Yet despite the very real impact of social media, many companies have yet to make appropriate allowances for it in their contact centre strategies. Numerous local organisations are still coming to terms with the addition of elements such SMS, e-mail and Web chat into the contact centre mix, and thus social media has been forced to take a back seat.
Social media strategies have historically been the property of marketing departments, who, whilst probably best equipped to take ownership of communications regarding a brand, are not ideally positioned to tackle real-time customer service queries.
In order to create a truly holistic and unified customer service model, companies need to bridge the gap between the marketing department and the contact centre, and empower agents with an understanding of the social media environment, as well an ability to deal with issues that may arise from it.
Truly unified contact centre operations will not be a reality until this social media blind spot is addressed, as, without adequate knowledge of incidents arising in the social media sphere, contact centre agents’ ability to deal with customers is severely compromised.
Technology enabling social media integration in the contact centre is currently readily available, and can be implemented in order to effectively monitor public sentiment and track individual customer cases.
However, this is not a process that can take place overnight, and companies who rush into social media integration without appropriate forethought and strategy can often end up doing more harm than good.
The principles of social media are very different to those of the more familiar channels such as phone, fax and e-mail, and thus it needs to be handled with caution – contact centre agents can’t be expected to simply treat it as an additional element in the existing customer service offering.
Agents need to be appropriately trained to understand the nature of the social media phenomenon, and to be able to identify the different rules applied to each individual channel. Unleashing agents into the social networking sphere without appropriate training can be disastrous, as mishandled interactions can quickly go viral and do a brand a significant disservice.
Social media monitoring tools, which aggregate feeds and detect keywords related to a specified brand, then need to be put in place so as to provide contact centre employees with a bird’s eye view of the social media environment. These types of tools can enable them to effectively monitor various social media platforms, and identify any incidents that require rapid resolution.
These monitoring tools can also be integrated into the company’s existing contact centre technologies, and can thus make effective use of elements such as skills-based routing, so as to ensure that each query is being handled by an appropriately capable individual within the company.
This type of integration also means that incidents can be logged and tracked, affording contact centre agents the benefit of comprehensive customer history that they might not previously have had.
Additionally, integration will allow companies to keep abreast of response times and resolution rates within the social media sphere, thus enabling the contact centre to continually adapt to the changing needs of their customers.
Social media is here to stay, and companies who choose not to embrace it will certainly struggle to keep up with their customers in years to come. Whilst there are undoubtedly risks associated with integrating social media into the contact centre environment, it can, if properly handled, reap exceptional rewards, and ultimately end up taking the company’s customer service offering to the next level.