Published: September 08, 2014 | Comments
We chatted recently with Scott Sachs of SJS Solutions, LLC to discuss doing business in an age of multiple communication channels. As a consultant, Sachs is a leader in his field, helping contact centers improve customer service and transform their operations.
Why Do I Need To Worry About Social Care?
Customers use a variety of communication channels in their personal lives and are beginning to expect the same when communicating with businesses. The important thing, according to Sachs, is to help guide customers, saying, “They need choice along with direction. It’s like going into a store and seeing a discount rack with numerous options. Customers want options and also guidance on the best choice.”
(We agree. In fact, we recently released a guide on ICMI that shows which channels to use in which situations.)
Multiple channels of communication allow customers to take their concerns to a variety of venues. This becomes very demanding for businesses, especially when the customer is less than pleased. According to Sachs, “The whole social media concept is incredibly challenging and potentially painful because if someone tweets something, it’s out there, and whether it’s right or wrong the company may be on its heels. How do you say the customer is incorrect in a public forum without looking like you’re not customer-focused?”
The best strategy is to acknowledge the inquiry quickly and give a disgruntled customer a more private option for ongoing communications. That gives the customer a way to be heard and to have their problem solved quickly with a personal connection. Says Sachs, “If I have an issue, I would prefer to put it in a private text rather than social media. I don’t want people seeing what my personal issues are. If there is a private problem, I don’t want to share it with the whole world.” By giving your customers more private channels like phone, text, or private web channels to air their grievances, you provide them with a personal touch and save potential damage your brand.
In addition, according to Sachs, “It’s the way people are communicating nowadays. These new channels are very fast providing immediate answers. Channels like SMS are great from a courtesy standpoint. Let’s say I’m on an airplane that just landed and need to know the gate of my connecting flight and don’t have an internet connection. It would be great to have my problem solved through text, without the hassle of high noise levels or people overhearing my conversation. It would be so much more pleasant.”
How Do I Make This Happen?
A barrier for some business owners is how to introduce new channels into a contact center that is already maxed out. Says Sachs, “There are a lot of demands in a contact center, and they are incredibly busy. Contact centers are up to their ears in day-to-day fires, so every time a new channel is established, the contact center needs to take the time to determine the best way to address and to respond to customer requirements.”
There may be an alternative solution that is taking place in many organizations, however. According to Sachs, “Social media and other channels can initially be handled by the marketing department. As the channels mature and volumes increase, they migrate into operations. Businesses can spend critical up-front time creating a brand strategy that can be supported by their social media or text channels before implementing it on an operations-wide level.”
Which brings us to...training. Channels like social media or SMS create the need for a whole new set of skills—both in writing and in diplomacy. Says Sachs, “All of a sudden, everything you put in writing is available for public consumption. This interaction is now in a very public forum and therefore part of your brand. There is also a new set of other operational challenges. Grammar has to be appropriate. How do you manage the quality? How do you manage the workforce? Companies need more templates, more tools, and more screening.”
How Do I Know It’s Working?
OK...so now my business has integrated social media and text response. How do I measure success? What are my metrics? Well, first of all, these channels are new and, as Sachs says, “The metrics have not been established or agreed upon. Some have proposed benchmarks, but it isn’t standardized.”
Plus, success in these channels tends to be more about building relationships than logistics. “Everyone has goals because they’re easily measured. The problem is that typical contact center goals may not accurately measure relationship building and brand image. There is a lot of conversation that goes on in these new channels. These conversations are building relationships with customers and treating each person as an individual.” Traditional contact center and ROI measurements may have limited value. For more insight into this phenomenon, check out this recent Forbes article.
So, I’ve set up my new channels, trained my workforce, and let customers know how to reach me. I’m all set! Right?
Well, before you break out the champagne, keep in mind that customers will expect not only to reach you through all channels, but also to seamlessly go between them. Sachs said it well: “The other gap is pivoting between channels. Can we move from one channel to another with the same customer experience? Customers should be able to start with phone, then go to text, then if they can’t get their problem resolved they can pivot without going to the back of the line or repeating themselves. Or let’s say I’m on a tweet process and you convince me to move to text or phone. It must be a seamless integrated experience. Otherwise it can be a frustrating process, like starting the conversation over again.”
[For more information on channel pivoting, check out 5 Tips When Adding New Communication Channels Into Your Business.]
I’m Starting To Feel Better About This. Any Final Advice?
1. Don’t fight it. Embrace the opportunity.
A lot of senior management is not sure of how to handle social care. They embrace it, not exactly sure how to manage it. Some companies have figured out how to use it to maximize their position. Don’t be a victim. Leverage social care to improve your positioning and brand image.
2. Understand your customers and their expectations.
It’s not going to happen overnight. You can’t guess what your customers want. Solid research in this area will yield great dividends for your business.
3. Operationalize and standardize.
You want customers to be treated well in a fair and consistent manner. It’s worth investing initial time and/or expense to make sure the entire process is seamless from beginning to end.
4. Focus on the customer experience.
Make sure you are thinking about what is best for the customer as you determine how to support the various channels. This is not the time to spam the clients with the company’s marketing. It’s a service channel...treat it and your customers with respect.
5. Create a response strategy.
Have a plan for responding to incoming communication from all possible channels—SMS text, web, email, social media. Customers should never be left hanging when they reach out to you, regardless of the channel. If you don’t currently have a way to field incoming texts, find a solution. If you don’t have an employee that can monitor social media, hire someone. Do whatever it takes.
Treat your customers well. After all, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?