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Why Social Media is the New Key to Customer Relationships

Ready or not, here comes Social Media: and the contact center needs to be prepared. ICMI recaps Brad Cleveland's interview with Salesforce.com UK why Social Media is the new key to maintaining customer relationships.

Raise your hand if you're guilty of tweeting about how you're still waiting on hold with to speak with a customer service rep from [insert company name here] and #canyoubelieveit?

As modern consumers, we're aware and adaptable to the technology trends that continue to sweep the market. But, can the same be said for those of us on the other side of the Tweet? Though many companies have embraced Social Media into their business plans, others are still struggling to decide whether or not to take the plunge. In a recent interview with Salesforce.com UK, ICMI's Senior Consultant Brad Cleveland shares his perspective on social customer support and how it fits into the future of the contact center.

Here, we’ll look at a few of Brad's main points from the interview and how they apply to your contact center.

1. Ready or not, here comes social media. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums all fall into this category. These days, it's simply not enough for a company to just have a website. Brad points out that modern consumers expect trusted brands will also have a social presence, making companies and their products and services accessible at the touch of a button. Many global studies, such as the recent TNS study commissioned by Sitel, offer evidence that modern consumers rely heavily on what their peers have said about a product or service - good or bad. The TNS study found that the first thing 57% of consumers will do when they have a problem with a product is search for a solution online.

2. Social media is much more than just another channel. Brad emphasizes several times in the interview that social media differs from the traditional contact center channels for many reasons - both positive and negative - and the industry should take note. Unlike traditional channels, social media sites enable consumers to access a wealth of information regarding products and services by other consumers just like them. Through these communities, consumers can share information and build trust based on the experiences of their peers. The social community is a very powerful (and occasionally dangerous) tool. Sometimes, consumers will judge a product or service without ever using it!

Does this mean that social media will it replace the contact center? Brad's answer is: No. But, he goes on to say that 3. Social media WILL change the traditional contact center. Brad tells Salesforce.com, "the next generation contact center will be the internal engine many organizations depend on not only to handle interactions with customers, but also to listen and engage in external communities." The contact center cannot live on social media alone; Access Alternatives, Hours of Operation and Methodology. These components are essential to making the integration as seamless as possible.

While you're in planning mode, Brad also recommends including how your center will 4. Track, record and measure social engagements. Don't let the suave exterior of social channels fool you: In the contact center, it’s just as important to track and measure interactions through social media as it is for any of our other traditional channels. Keep the seven key measures and objectives in mind as you build out your plan for how to properly track these interactions.

Another important tip from Brad: 5. Don't try to be everywhere at once. If your company has decided to make the jump into social sites, it’s important not to overextend your reach. First, listen to conversations going across these sites to determine where you need to be. (I think this is where conducting a Google search on your company or products may come in handy.) From there, start building an official social presence on the sites the you deem to be key for your customers.

Once you're out there on those key social media sites, Brad encourages the contact center to make sure that it 6. Maintains a professional social presence and 7. Uses common sense when socially engaging with customers. This should not be limited to social media, either. All of your customer interactions, including phone, email and web chat, should be conducted professionally and approached with common sense. You can learn by example from some of the companies who've already excelled at providing great social customer service.

Has your contact center delved into the world of social media yet? What are your thoughts on the process? Tell us about it here, or email me at [email protected].

For more on Brad's thoughts on social media awareness and its impact on the contact center, read the full interview.

Christina Hammarberg is the former associate editor at ICMI.