Published: December 10, 2013 | Comments
Earlier this year, we discussed the new social agent. As we head into 2014, it’s a good time to reflect upon social agents within the context of the multi-channel contact center.
No matter what new channel arises, it must be appropriately staffed and managed so that agents with the right knowledge and skills are available to respond to customers quickly and appropriately though social, email chat or any other channel. Delivering a truly consistent customer experience depends on us connecting the disparate systems and processes we’ve built up across channels to better serve customers. It’s when these systems are not connected that we cannot quickly serve customers that businesses are left flat footed and customers frustrated. As we work to integrate social into our operations, it’s a good time to think about how we could create a contact center that’s engineered to effectively serve the customer across all channels.
If your customer service organization defers to marketing to handle inquiries and comments made through social media channels or, even worse, avoids them altogether – you could be headed for a customer service disaster.
Social media is a powerful tool and the truth is your customers are already using it to promote or degrade your brand every day, whether you acknowledge it or not.
Today’s customers are well-informed, empowered and more demanding than ever. Not only do they expect their inquiries to be handled with speed and accuracy, but if they receive unsatisfactory service, they can (and will) quickly share their bad experience in vivid detail in social forums like Facebook and Twitter.
To really keep your finger on the pulse of customer satisfaction in your organization, you simply can’t afford to avoid the social realm. Contact center agents must become more "social," engage with customers in their chosen channels, and learn to effectively navigate the social world.
Social Media: It's Serious.
Think integrating social channels and training agents to handle social media is a waste of resources? Think again. Though there may be fewer comments and posts about your business on social outlets like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn than the number of incoming calls, make no mistake – the impact of these social networks is huge.
Today, Facebook has more than one billion active monthly users. Twitter has 500 million users and more than 200 million people are on LinkedIn. YouTube has some 800 million users, reporting four billion views per day. Social media now accounts for 18% of all time spent online and more than half of people in the U.S. now have a social media profile.
It is easy to see how a single blog post, tweet or LinkedIn discussion can garner the attention of thousands of potential customers instantaneously. This can work both for and against your company, depending on the nature of the comment. But either way, your course is clear. It’s time for agents to get engaged and join the conversation.
The New Social Agent
Just like the phone, social media is a customer service tool that agents can use to listen to customers and provide them with an overall better experience.
Quick searches of Google and Twitter are free and will instantly tell you if customers are talking about your company and what they are saying on blogs and in tweets. Whole categories of technology have sprung up to manage the process, from social listening platforms, to social engagement and even social control systems, but the human element can’t be overlooked. (It is called social media, after all.)
Social networks enable agents to interact with customers in real-time and either solve their issues or get them to the right channel where someone can help them. These platforms also offer a way for agents to proactively communicate with multiple existing and prospective customers at one time about your company’s products and services, as well as address common issues that other customers may be experiencing.
Often, issues that surface online can serve as an alert to your center as to what to expect from future customer inquiries. This enables you to better prepare your agents with the knowledge they need to effectively solve customer problems.
This ability to quickly solve customer issues – and proactively address common customer concerns – leads to improved customer service and overall loyalty.
Finding the Time
For many organizations, the idea of providing customer service through social channels, especially the task of preparing agents to navigate this new realm, is overwhelming.
In general, you should address social media the way you would any other initiative. Agents must be educated on how to use social media tools and be equipped to respond to customers in real-time. This will require ongoing training to those reps responsible for social response as well as tools to monitor and respond to the ebb and flow of social interactions within the context of the contact center.
Intraday management technology exists today that enables contact centers to prepare for and respond to social media. For example, integrating intraday management with listening tools can generate alerts and notifications based on pre-defined business conditions such as social media posts or trending key words. It can also be used to dynamically communicate must-read e-mails or knowledge base articles to agents during idle times to get ahead of possible customer questions or concerns. And before allowing agents to respond to social media inquiries, certify them by delivering coaching and training during natural downtimes in call volume and update skills and queue assignments on the fly.
Today’s customers are savvy, well-informed and social. Reaction time is critical and agents must be equipped to handle customer demands with speed and accuracy. The result is a more effective and productive agent workforce and a more satisfied customer base.