In my conversations with contact center managers, I often ask about the use of social collaboration tools for customer engagement. The managers typically respond with, "We monitor brand mentions on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, so we do indeed have a social collaboration strategy!" But that viewpoint misses the broader potential of social collaboration platforms to improve customer responsiveness and consequently, net promoter scores or post-call customer satisfaction survey ratings.
The type of social collaboration that will truly benefit contact centers is the type involving social collaboration platforms like IBM Connections, Jive, Microsoft SharePoint (Yammer), Newsgator Social Sites, Tibbr and other social software competitors. Using these platforms inside the contact center enables agents to collaborate with each other and with subject-matter experts within communities of interest, much in the same way people use Facebook and Twitter to communicate with groups around social interests in the consumer space. These enterprise social business applications aren't just for customer service; rather, they allow individuals and groups to come together in shared workspaces to collaborate around specific projects or to share ideas in groups like sales, marketing, and customer support. We find the biggest users of enterprise social collaboration platforms are the geographically dispersed organizations that struggle to share expertise among their lines of business. Other proponents of social collaboration platforms include those who don't find email reliable for collaborating, retaining knowledge or discovering what expertise exists throughout the organization.
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Social collaboration also builds upon unified communications. Many of our research participants are already using UC applications like instant messaging to quickly find experts to answer customer questions or to bring experts into calls without requiring a call-back or extensive hold times. But while UC helps an agent quickly engage with an expert, social tools can solve the bigger question: "Who are the experts in the first place?"
To do this, most social platforms allow community participants to add tags to their profile to designate themselves as an expert. Consider the following scenario: A contact center agent receives a call from a customer who has a specific question about tax-free annuities. The agent searches the enterprise social platform for individuals who have "tax-free annuities" in their profile and locates a subject matter expert. Following the search, the agent uses the enterprise UC tool to contact the expert and join him to the call. The customer then receives an instant answer and decides to purchase the product as a result.
In this example, there's no need for a callback, which often results in missed calls and poor customer service.
Adding gamification features -- like recognition of the most helpful experts via badges, thumbs-ups or likes on their social profiles -- can improve the ability of agents to find the most helpful resources: not just the subject matter expert, but the SME whom others rate the highest. Some leading-edge organizations even tie social performance to job performance as a way of encouraging community participation.
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Another way that a social platform can help front-line agents is through microblogging – short, Twitter-style messages that provide quick status updates. Using these kinds of tools for updates and conversations can allow agents to stay on top of business events that can have direct customer impact. For instance, a utility company could activate its outage management system by sending a short message to all agents with specific outage information. The agents and those working on the problem could converse using the same tool to determine the extent of the outage, the customer impact, the likely resolution time and any other information that would help speed customer service. Agents could continue to monitor the social conversation, potentially even adding work-arounds or additional information that would be of use to those receiving customer calls or responding to customer inquiries via mobile, text or social channels.
Those considering using social collaboration platforms inside the contact center should conduct pilot tests. Such tests should measure the performance of traditional call areas, like first-call resolution. Pilots should also cover more advanced metrics, like customer retention, net promoter score, customer satisfaction score or customer effort score. The goal is to measure any benefit from employing the social platform. This will enable the company to quantify the benefit of its investment and see how adding social features, such as badges, directly influences customer service performance.
Social business software within the enterprise offers the same ease of collaboration that has made Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like so popular in the consumer space. Those responsible for customer service would be wise to investigate how social collaboration tools can improve their contact center operations.