Social Media as a Channel in Contact Centers

This blog post takes a look at the ever-increasing array of new social media channels of interactions destined for Unified Communications within Contact Centers. In this post, we are taking a rounded view of the pitfalls and some of the processes you’ll need to be aware of if you want to merge a new social media channel into your day-to-day operations.

Almost every day a new channel of communications enters the marketplace, based on either social or a smartphone communications media. The evolution of these new channels began with the introduction of both FAX/OCR and SMS as text-based communications methods over 2 decades ago – and continues through every new communications App that lands in the plethora of App Stores on the Market, today. For those businesses who would want to “dip their toes” into this potential minefield of social interaction, here’s some pointers from us;

The introduction of Social Media (Facebook, Blogging, Twitter, etc.) brought with it an immense opportunity for Businesses – and an immense challenge. In the past, a company’s reputation or ‘persona’ could be advertised and asserted through traditional media channels. Adverts, campaigns, sponsorships, festivals, product launches, etc. – lots of ways for a company to place themselves in the eyes of their (potential) customers. And then, one day – a complaint arrived in the public domain. Something which was not from the Company Marketing or Sales Team – but from a member of the public. In this first instance, it was the recorded complaint that went ‘viral’ – thousands of links to the complaint went around the globe in days. Yes, United Airlines™ broke a guitar – but, moreover, their apathy to the event was parodied by the customer and they paid dearly for their mistake through boycotts. Their apparent lack of compassion resonated with the Social Media set. It was a warning shot – and a lot more complaints appeared on line. Suddenly that fun, trivial, superfluous and ultimately wide open channel of communication gained a voice. And it said exactly what it thought, which became an issue for any business. Who was saying what about whom? Is anybody responding? Are we responding…? of course, that is the downside of Social Media Channels. It could just as easily be seen as an open opportunity for companies to embrace their customers – and learn from their mistakes. And that, in a nutshell, is exactly what Social Media Channels are about, for businesses. Telling – showing – sharing – watching – listening and interacting with *everyone* – not just (potential) customers. It means embracing a phenomenon that cannot be ignored and is open to everyone. It means not only showing compassion, but being compassionate. It’s not ideal for advertising, but it is good for informing and discussing. Your Marketing, Sales & Advertising Team has gained a new friend – and a new enemy…

Social Media – The Friend

Today, tools and Services exist for Companies to plug and ‘feed’ Social Media Channel. A typical Campaign might contain a series of cryptic messages and/or links to promotions – or it might ‘tag along’ with Twitter feeds. The ultimate goal being to advertise to the general public through this media. Of course, you’d also want to know how well things are received – and perceived. That’s not so easy. The same as a billboard, high up on a prominent wall, the best you can do is hope for a good location. Sure, you might find out who looked at it – or who passed it by – or who didn’t particularly ‘Like’ it. But that is how Social Media works. It doesn’t want or need to be quantified by its Users – it is *their* Social Media tool. Social Media, as a friend, can be mined and – asking the right questions – will give you as much as you can handle.

Social Media – The Enemy

As with any source of ‘open media’, Social Media is a perfect catalyst for free speech. That applies to both the good – and bad – about any ‘open’ subject. Obviously, this can present issues for businesses, which can very quickly become major problems rather than just a single customer complaint. But how a company deals with the issue (or ignores it) may or may not be recognized. Sometimes, doing nothing at all can be more damaging that doing the wrong thing. Worse still is the generic, robotic response of “…we are looking into this…” as a placeholder. As with any similar issue or problems, complaints in open media can be turned into an opportunity, with the right approach. Social Media is about people – not products. It’s about opinion, passion and a sense of belonging and togetherness. Perhaps not a market place for advertising – but a gold mine of customer comment and feedback. Social Media, as an enemy, can be mined and – given the right focus and response – will no doubt enhance a company’s profile or reputation.

Social Media – Getting the Balance Right

Business enterprises cannot ignore the power of Social Media. Whether it is a single incident, or a global ‘happening’, Social Media maintains a very staunch position as a ‘soap box’ on which any User may stand – and shout! To those who listen – and those who don’t – it can affect perceptions and business operations. Therefore, a business must (at the very least) listen, if not respond in a way Social Media accepts. A symbiotic relationship should be allowed to exist.

A favorite approach right now is to let your staff be “themselves” when acting on behalf of the business, within the Social Media Channels. To show they care – on behalf of their employer, by genuinely sympathizing – openly and earnestly. The benefits of showing compassion and actually being sympathetic (rather than appearing to be so) cannot be underestimated, in the eyes of Social Media…

If you would like more information or support integrating Social Media to your Contact Center channels, why not contact a member of the SOFTEL Team to discuss your requirements?

In the next blog post, we’ll be taking a look at the tools needed to get what you want – and what your social media audience needs, with Knowledge and Content Management, Orchestration and Reporting.