When social media first began to show itself as a force to be reckoned with when it came to customers, many businesses panicked a bit. Which social media channels to monitor? Should they do more than simply monitor, but also engage customers? How should they ensure that reputation damaging social media posts don’t go viral? How to make the most of positive coverage in social media?
The question that companies should have been asking themselves is, “Who should handle social media?” Initially, many companies decided that social media belonged in the hands of marketing: after all, social media is a powerful marketing tool. As time went by, though, it became obvious that, as social media becomes yet another channel through which customers contact a company, the function best belongs in the hands of the call center, fully integrated alongside other contact center media such as telephone, e-mail and Web chat.
There are a number of reasons why the call center is the best possible choice for the management of social media, according to Kim Campbell of contact center services provider Blue Ocean in a recent blog post. For starters, there’s the immediacy of the posts. Marketing and public relations may be used to handling issues on a daily basis at best. The contact center, however, is accustomed to handling issues in real-time, while the customer is waiting. Social media problems or opportunities left alone for a day or more are likely to shrivel up and die, representing missed sales or small problems getting bigger.
Another element is the fact that call center agents are trained to carry out the kind of tasks involved in social media monitoring and response. While a marketing department might let social media contacts fall through the cracks – they do have other jobs, after all – the contact center is used to hands-on work that requires multitasking. Contact center agents are trained to be experts in customer service: marketing and public relations personnel are not.
Another important element is the business process of the contact center: by its very multichannel nature, it’s good at scheduling tasks and maintaining service levels.
“Contact center workforce managers are experts at forecasting and scheduling,” writes Campbell. “When you add social into your channel mix, your contact center team can help you establish SLAs that give the best customer experience/response time, while taking advantage of the productivity efficiencies inherent in a multi-skilled agent pool.”
With scheduling efficiencies in place, the contact center is well equipped to handle sudden spikes in social media posts, just as it’s prepared to handle sudden spikes in call volume. Anything can spike social media posts: a news item, a new promotion, a celebrity opinion and more. Chances are, during this time, marketing and public relations will have their own fires to put out; they won’t be able handle the rising social media volume as well.
To succeed today, companies must have a handle on both inbound and outbound social media. By turning it into simply another channel that the call center is trained and prepared to handle, companies can ensure that social media is fully integrated into the overall customer experience.
Edited by Blaise McNamee