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How Social Media Has Changed the Contact Center

The use of social media by customers has had a significant impact on the contact center.  In the past, the contact center was often seen as an expense center that was hidden in a remote location.  Initiatives to drive out expense by reducing the length of phone calls and moving more calls to self-service were commonplace.  Quality was always a focus of the contact center, often with the emphasis on the quality of the transaction instead of the root cause of the issue.  Social media has changed the old model; now the contact center has moved to the forefront of the organization and the “Voice of the Customer” has taken on a new definition beyond just a telephone call.  A key benefit of this transformation is that the contact center is being recognized for the value it provides--customer feedback on products and services.  The change in visibility also requires an “Excellence of Execution” at a higher level than ever before. 

The growth of social media as a customer voice has resulted in three specific interrelated impacts:

  • Increased empowerment of customers
  • Increased level of engagement by non customer contact functions
  • Increased complexity of process management

We now live in the world of the empowered customer.  What a great opportunity for an organization when a customer uses the loudspeaker that social media provides to praise the products/services they have just received.  Is there a better type of advertising available? On the flip side, a customer sharing a poor experience in a public forum, potentially going viral, is a nightmare that can awaken a solid sleeper at night.  Remember the old adage of an unhappy customer telling 7 acquaintances of their negative experience…think how that has changed and amplified with social media. 

So what has customer empowerment done to contact centers?  As a result of the unfiltered comments from customers on social media, the contact center is now scrambling to respond to customers in a new and dynamic environment.  Some of the new challenges include simple items such as determining a standard response time and deciding whether the response should be made public or off-line.   More challenging items include:

How do you tell a customer that they are incorrect?

How do you assure what is communicated cannot be misinterpreted?

Gone are the days when escalated complaints were forwarded by phone or paper to the contact center supervisor to be handled with a high level of priority in a one-on-one conversation with the customer.  How a customer contact organization deals with these comments has a major impact on how current and perspective customers perceive the brand.

Many organizations are creating a Customer Experience function, which often inherits the contact center operation as part of their organization.  These organizations are much broader than a contact center operation, responsible for overseeing the end-to-end customer experience and measuring the “Voice of the Customer”.  Is it a coincidence that this new organizational structure has arisen at the same time that the use of social media has exploded?  Analyzing the end-to-end customer experience is a more holistic way of looking at root cause analysis of process/service breakdowns.  The contact center has now become a center of focus for the voice of the customer.  Have you found individuals from outside departments monitoring calls, requesting root cause analysis, and voice of the customer information? 

One of the most challenging items in contact center management is consistency of service.  Contact centers are responsible for delivering numerous KPI’s on a regular basis.   The science behind contact centers has an economic base with the concept of matching supply and demand.  Unlike mathematical models the formula does not always work.  In many cases the model breaks down because we deal with human behavior on both sides of the equation.  With social media, the customers now have a louder voice and will let an organization, and the entire world, know about inconsistent service levels such as queues longer than targeted or challenging interactions with a front line representative.

The overall expansion of channels of communication, which includes the growth of social media, has had a significant impact on workflows and processes in contact centers.  Unified communication strategies must be developed, staffing models need to be revised, skillsets of individuals responding to social media requests need to be enhanced, and new KPIs need to be developed and implemented. 

There is also a requirement to increase the consistency of service and assure that front line staff is held to a higher standard.  In many cases, consistency of service can be improved with enhanced forecasting, scheduling, and staffing.  Consistency of quality is a greater challenge; front line staff must deliver outstanding service on every customer interaction.  Processes need to be reengineered and automated systems need to be enhanced to manage the processes so that representatives can be more focused on the customer interaction.  Additionally, as noted earlier, new processes need to be developed to assure contact centers respond to customers via social media in the most effective and efficient manner.

If you want to really see the impact of social media on contact centers, look at an agenda for a contact center conference today and compare it to an agenda from ten years ago.  The difference? Social media is now dominating the industry conversation.

Social media has created a number of new challenges for the contact center.  Overall, the use of social media will drive businesses to provide improved products and services and therefore the hearty will survive.  From a contact center perspective, they now have a greater voice in the organization, but with that additional responsibility contact centers will be called upon more often to perform at an outstanding level. Therefore, developing the infrastructure, processes, and roles to succeed is critical.  “Excellence of Execution” needs to be added to our new vocabulary.

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