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Best Practices for Social Customer Service in the Call Center

This week at ACCE, we saw some good discussions and presentations around social customer service, but one of the questions we got most was “What are the best practices for social media in the contact center?” The answer is that use of this channel for customer service and support is still wide open – essentially, there’s a lot of room to make your own. But we have nailed down a couple for you that will help improve customer loyalty and return on investment:
1.    Listen (monitor activity around key words)
2.    Handle (be prepared and make sure you’re manning the store)
a.    Be proactive (but not rash)
b.    Conform service to the channel’s parameters
3.    Measure
All the social customer service experts I’ve talked with will tell you that listening is the first commandment. “Just like your traditional phone channel,” says Fergus Griffin, vice president of Cloud Customer Service at Salesforce.com, “where you take your customers calls through your switch or what have you, customers are reaching out to you through social media.”
But there are times when you can do some proactive listening, as well. There are multiple tools out there (for purchase and free of charge) that will help you track social media discussions that include keywords that are relevant to your organization and the work it does. Those tools can tell you the when, where and who of what’s being said.
“Typically the mode for getting started is you to find a business motive hypothesis and you build a process that you think will work and then you begin to listen and put it into practice,” says Andrew Kokes, vice president of Global Product Management for the outsourcing firm Sitel. “You’d probably be surprised that some of the largest, even software companies out there today, that we support have started off doing this using freeware or noware-type solutions. You know, we’ve done Twitter-monitoring with some of the tools that you can just go down and just download for free.”
Kip Wetzel, Senior Director of Social Media Service and Strategy, Comcast, says listening was his company’s first step: “sometimes there’s a perception that large brands “talk at” consumers, tell them what to think. We wanted to show customers that we were listening to them, so before we took any action [with social media service], we were there, listening.
You should also consider that your organization doesn’t have to be present on every social channel. You can track trending topics, product mentions, demographics, and channel use (twitter, facebook, etc.) with listening tools. “You may not need to be on every channel – find out where your customers are,” says Griffin.
Like telephone calls or emails, you’ve got to have a handling process for social media “calls.” You’ve got to have agents – either dedicated or skilled and ready – to handle these contacts. Outsourcer Novo1 uses a social media ACD, says Mary Murcott, CEO of the firm and call center sales and management expert. “It’s a beautiful thing to route that activity to the right person every time,” she says. Some leading organizations use dedicated agents for social media; others use a blended approach, putting their best-skilled agents on multiple channels, including social media.
Your social customer service strategy should also include a proactive approach, but Koker says you shouldn’t be rash: “Don’t jump right on a comment that’s negative, but look for ‘calls for help’ and make the information available through that channel.” Koker says Sitel pushes social service by having agents direct customers to help at organizations’ websites or encouraging a direct contact. “Listening for people’s key word references to brands or products and identifying those areas where we can participate in the conversation and assist that customer by potentially directing them, and typically directing them to someplace online where they can find the answers that they’re looking for.”
For Comcast, that type of service might be how to set parental controls on their television, says Wetzel.
You’ll need to track volume and frequency for social contacts and mentions. Phone and social don’t always match up on metrics like handle time, but you should make social cases like other channels in regard to linking it with case management and knowledge base tools, says. Griffin.
Perhaps the most important measure you’ll be looking at as you build your social media service case (and support the channel going forward) is return on investment (ROI). Not only does social media help you identify leaders that you can cultivate as ambassadors for your organization, “you can also track key ROI metrics like customer lifetime value, net promoter score and customer satisfaction,” says Griffin.
You can also use social media as a channel for cross-selling and up-selling. For instance, Koker says, agents can recommend products, highlight features and more through social media channels when they “hear” someone looking for direction.