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10th June 2015

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Preparing for the social service contact centre of tomorrow

The rise of social media networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is turning customer service on its head by changing how, where and to whom people look for help when buying new products and services. It is also revolutionising consumer behaviour, however the higher expectations of immediate interaction and customer service that go with it present major challenges, and opportunities, especially for contact centres.

The exponential growth of social media is transforming the role of the contact centre from a simple repository for inbound enquiries into a powerful and effective customer engagement machine. Digital marketers closely monitor social media to manage their organisation’s brand and reputation and marketing teams value the immediacy and clever targeting it brings to their campaigns. It is no accident that today’s contact centres are frequently referred to as ‘customer experience centres’ as they are actively driving the way organisations communicate with customers.

Success lies in combining the right people and processes with the right technology. Follow these steps to maximise the social media business opportunity in your contact centre:

Be prepared for the surge of social media activity

Just a few years ago, the major challenge was creating a truly multi-channel contact centre environment to respond quickly to voice, email, social media, chat, SMS and web “call me” requests all within the same application. Today, more and more customer service representatives are being appointed to manage the surge of social media activity and even respond to negative customer feedback on a very public platform.

The question is: Is your contact centre set to deliver this demand? There are a few ways to address this:

  • Switch voice agents to social channels when demand is high (meaning you need to train ‘super agents’ competent across more than one channel. This presents a whole set of new challenges from a recruitment perspective – how easy is it to find agents who can speak well as well as write well?
  • Train a dedicated social media team – an approach that many companies are now adopting – again this approach presents opportunities as well as challenges – this is an interesting topic area to discuss with the wider team – especially the marketers (the traditional guardians of social media).

This topic can be debated further and is beyond the scope of this blog but we encourage you to truly think about your resourcing challenges when it comes to social media customer service.

Don’t rely on the Facebook generation for new channels

Building the right team is essential to managing social media in the contact centre effectively. However, don’t assume youth is the new panacea and don’t make the mistake of hiring students for social media channels. It is far better to select agents with the skills to handle complex or difficult customer situations. Seasoned agents are also more likely to know what can be discussed on a public channel and what should be taken off-line. Remember, how to use social media can be taught quickly; years of product knowledge and company experience take much longer.

Get a helping hand from technology. The latest contact centre solutions feature skills based routing to ensure the right agent always handles the right channel at the right time.

Creating an integrated sales cycle

Organisations that consider their contact centre to be the start and finish of the overall sales cycle will always succeed. Customers today rely on popular social media networking sites such as TripAdvisor and Comparethemarket.com before they visit a hotel or spend their hard-earned cash on a new car. Having chosen to purchase their goods and services, they will expect a fast, seamless and positive buying experience or go elsewhere. Once the first sale is closed, the next challenge is to keep customers close and encourage them to buy more!

Every contact point should embody excellence – from the way agents handle initial enquiries to the quality of information provided, and their willingness to allow customers to interact in the channel of their choice. Today’s clever technology can integrate seamlessly with an organisation’s CRM, ERP and other business critical systems to identify customers and their past purchases and so deliver a highly personalised service to encourage loyalty.

Build the right technology framework

Companies looking to step up their use of social media and social support, whether by building a new contact centre or planning to update their current infrastructure should start by thinking cloud. A cloud-based infrastructure combines the benefits of a traditional on-premise solution with the increased flexibility, reliability and, last but not least, cost efficient Pay-As-You-Go pricing of modern solutions.

Cloud-based contact centre solutions allow agents to respond to voice, email, social media, chat, SMS and web “call me” requests all within the same application, leading to faster response times, exceptional customer care and reduced costs. Scalability is also critical and cloud-based solutions allow organisations to take a low risk approach, starting small with the ability to conduct a “real world test” without the need to update and invest CAPEX into existing telephony technology.

The principles of excellent customer service remain the same whatever the channel used. Delivering exceptional service via social media in the contact centre of tomorrow will mean happy customers and an all-important healthy bottom line.