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Recommended Reading: Social Media Enhances the Remote Agent Benefit for Contact Centers

Do you tweet? The most exciting recent addition to the contact center is the use of social media (or social software) sites such as Twitter and Facebook as customer service channels. More and more people are turning to these sites in order to bypass calling or sending an email to a company, in hopes of getting faster, more personalized service. Rather than looking for the customer support phone number, going through an IVR menu, and waiting on hold for a live agent, more and more customers are utilizing social media for fast responses to relatively simple problems. Getting attention from a company can be as simple as going to their Facebook page or sending a tweet to their Twitter address.

Learn More Remote Agent Lessons from Contact Centers

Find out what motivated early adopters to take the remote agent plunge. Discover real-world benefits realized, challenges faced (both real and perceived), and key lessons learned from industry experts, Blair Pleasant and Nancy Jamison. They’ll share new insight gained from interviews with customers and global experts directly involved in the successful deployment of remote agents. You'll also meet Sally Hurley, President and Co-Founder of VIPdesk, who will share her real-world experience in deploying remote agents and how this strategy has given her business a significant competitive advantage.

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According to various industry experts, less than 10% of contact centers currently integrate social media. However, the number of companies using Twitter and Facebook, and other social software services to interact with customers and provide customer service is increasing. Companies such as Comcast, Dell, JetBlue and Zappos are leading the charge. Many are beginning to recognize that they can use social media channels to engage with customers, resolve customer problems and issues, get feedback and build goodwill for their brands. For this scenario, remote agents are ideal – provided they have the tools and resources needed to best serve customers. The Internet never sleeps, and remote social media agents can provide service 24 hours a day, from any location.

Social media outlets can be flexibly integrated into a multi-channel contact center. Some companies may choose to use dedicated agents for social media interactions, while others opt for blended agents. For example, a company can use agents to monitor chatter, or calls can be routed to agents after they are mined from social media chatter, and agents can respond accordingly. For companies turning to social media for customer service and customer interaction, the use of remote agents can be an effective way of staffing for this new channel.

Social Media to the Rescue

One of the most enticing aspects of this emerging channel is that it can also benefit the remote agent. Social media tools can help overcome one of the biggest challenges to the use of remote agents -- the lack of communication between agents and supervisors, and the isolation agents experience when they are not in the main contact center facility. Often times the agents are unable to interact with other employees for social purposes or to access information. With today’s unified communications and social networking capabilities, this is no longer an issue.

For some companies, Instant Messaging (IM) and live chat lets remote agents interact with their supervisors and managers, as well as other contact center agents.

That’s the case for RDI Marketing (an outsourcer of contact center administrative services, and market research, across all verticals) and VIPdesk (which offers brands concierge services, customer care services, social media management, experiential programs, IVR services and voice of the customer surveying and analytics). Some companies use chat rooms for remote agents to communicate with each other, as well as internal message boards and wikis for agents to collaborate to solve problems and to share and have access to necessary information to do their jobs effectively. UC and social media capabilities let remote agents share information about their experiences and get immediate feedback from their peers and supervisors. For supervisors and managers who like to hold meetings and see their workers, inexpensive desktop video conferencing lets remote agents and supervisors have more personal interactions.

Salmat, an Australia-based outsourcer of multichannel customer communication, developed an internal social media platform to let its 400 home-based agents interact via an online interactive community, including chat rooms, forums, blogs, information bases, IM and more. Agents use IM to get answers to questions, and can interact with their supervisors via IM and chat, and even have social interactions and games via the interactive community.

This article is an excerpt from the whitepaper "Success with Remote Agents – Is Not so Remote," by Blair Pleasant, President & Principal Analyst, COMMfusion LLC; Nancy Jamison, President & Principal Analyst, Jamison Consulting; and Jason Alley, Solutions Marketing, Interactive Intelligence, Inc. (www.inin.com). Access the full whitepaper by attending the complimentary webinar "Success with Remote Agents…Is Not So Remote."