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Social customer service next up in call centers

Social customer service is engaging customers where they gather online. Expert Lisa Durant explains how to best handle these online interactions.

Organizations have a small and quickly closing window in which to differentiate themselves by providing customer service through social media before other companies do so. Nemertes' 2014-15 Enterprise Technology Benchmark found that 19% of organizations put social media in the top three channels of importance to their customers.

The interest in social media has sparked action between both contact center and unified communications (UC) vendors. In October, for example, UC provider 8x8 announced plans to incorporate Conversocial's cloud-based social media engagement technology. The combined product would enable contact center managers to have greater insight and control over their social media strategies. Many other vendors, including Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys, already natively support social media through their multi-channel contact center platforms.

While 83% of organizations monitor their brands on social media and 68% have marketing departments responding to mentions, marketing can't always answer the questions customers have.

Here are some ways to stand out through social media:

Monitor and engage

Effective social strategies include both monitoring what consumers say on social media and engaging those consumers through the same platforms. Organizations without social strategies should begin with social media monitoring. Then, show consumers that you're listening by responding. Companies already monitoring social media should evaluate what they are monitoring. What type of questions and issues come up? Are customers coming to social media first or as a last attempt when other efforts have failed?

Engage fully, respond directly and don't deflect

Nobody wants to see "Please call 1-800, etc." as a response to their social media inquiry. Whether it means providing the marketing team with the necessary information and skills to provide meaningful assistance, or moving social media monitoring to the contact center, or enabling collaboration between marketing and customer service teams, the top way to stand out to consumers on social media is to fix their issues right then and there.

Know when to move into private messaging

Not all conversations should be handled in public. If the question is complex, involves personal information, or if the customer is visibly upset, it's best to move these issues into a private conversation. This doesn't require moving off the social platform—all major social media systems have private messaging capabilities. Also, be aware that some social sites filter out company messages as "spam," which the individual may not be able to see. So, the person responding may need to ask the individual to direct message them first. It's important to educate whoever is handling social media responses on how and when to move conversations to private messaging.

Include social media in the infrastructure strategy

Organizations often handle social media with applications that are separate from their contact center routing platform. Nemertes found that 37% have a contact center involved in their social strategy in some way, but only 13% have social integrated into their platform. This gap is going to shrink, as the seamless customer journey becomes the new standard; 26% of organizations are evaluating integrating social into their platform in the future. Those wishing to maintain a competitive technological advantage should at least evaluate integrating social monitoring and engagement tools into their contact center platform.

Social media is rapidly expanding with new platforms, more users, and increasing consumer demand for companies to quickly respond to questions and complaints on those platforms. The window of opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves by providing quality customer service through social media is rapidly closing. In order to keep up with a changing industry, business leaders need to ensure that they have social strategies that include monitoring, taking action on insights, and effectively engaging customers on social platforms.

Next Steps

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Dig Deeper on Social Networking for Business

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I totally agree that if you can help directly on the channel where the question first came up, your customers will be happier. Part of the reason social media is often used by customers is that they want - and expect - a quick response. That said, you can't tackle everything in this way; if something involves personal account information or sensitive issues that would make more sense over, say, email, then you shouldn't be afraid to take it there. Think about what's most helpful for the customer, the company, and the rest of your social audience.