This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
Social media and unified communications and collaborations conversations – especially in regards to the contact center – are heating up.
I had a conversation recently with some executives that were grappling with an interesting social media challenge. The company’s marketing leaders had sought to expand their presence on Facebook (News - Alert), and their efforts had delivered impressive results: In just nine months, its number of followers had increased by 150,000.
But the more robust Facebook community also presents some risks: In essence, the company had created a massive, engaged community in an unregulated space. The executives can’t afford to assign employees to monitor continuously the growing stream of comments and activity on the page, but they also understand that negative feedback in this space can do disproportionate damage to their brand.
So they’re at a bit of a crossroads; the company recognizes that social media has changed the relationship between customers and companies, and the old tools and strategies won’t work. But they aren’t sure how to incorporate social media so that they get the greatest return and manage potential risks.
Doing nothing isn’t an option. So what’s the best path forward? Companies should consider four actions to bring social media into the contact center, increasing the value of these interactions while minimizing risks.
Reorient the contact center around a blended environment
Since consumers want to be able to engage with companies across multiple interaction points, social media can’t be viewed as a stand-alone channel. In addition, delivering a seamless experience regardless of the channel is crucial. That means the contact center’s infrastructure has to change. Companies should ensure that their contact center utilizes a unified communications platform that can accommodate traditional channels such as voice, e-mail, and chat as well as text messaging and social media.
Integrate functional areas
In the example above, marketing was in charge of the social media effort. However, the contact center wasn’t initially in the mix. Given the current climate, key functional areas of the company will need to operate in tandem. While achieving greater collaboration will require a shift in organizational structure and processes, accomplishing this goal will enable companies to assemble a more complete picture of their customers and devise more effective responses.
Make strategic use of social monitoring software
As the consumer landscape continues to evolve, social monitoring products have emerged that can help companies track comments about them across blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other online forums. Products run the gamut of prices and features, so it’s important to understand your needs and ensure that the technology you select supports your strategy. The real opportunity comes when companies use this information for proactive contact. Since service agents are specifically trained to interact with customers, the contact center is best placed to execute customer retention strategies.
Consider company-sponsored online forums
To reassert some control over online conversations, many companies have created forums where customers can ask questions, access product information, and interact with employees. With sites such as Facebook, registered users don’t expect their posts and feedback to be suppressed. Nestle found out the hard way that trying to restrict opinions was counterproductive. Company-sponsored forums aren’t held to the same standard, offering a bit more flexibility while still providing value to visitors.
When it comes to social media, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; instead, before entering the social space, companies should do the hard work of understanding what they hope to achieve by engaging in these channels and then commit the necessary resources to capture the full value of the opportunity.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi