The Role And Evolution Of Call Centres In This Social Media Age

Deep Sherchan, CMO at Simplify360 talks on the role and evolution of call centres in today's social media age

Editor’s Note: Deep Sherchan, guest editor at LI for the month of April writes about how call centers are evolving in social media age and how they can adapt to Social CRM. You can follow Deep on Twitter - @bexdeep

Call centers are rapidly being re-engineered to cater the demands of the growing digital savvy customers. With multiple customer touch points, it is becoming difficult to meet their expectations. As a result, customer experience managers are under tremendous pressure to improve their customer service across all the channels - Call, Chat, Email and Social.

Existing processes and systems deployed by call centers are unable to handle new mediums and their Deep Sherchandynamics. For example, in traditional call-center scenarios, the only channel through which a customer can communicate with the company is through phone or email. Hence, the support agents depended completely on email exchange with the customer, to gather more information about the case. But in the current situation, the customer might refer to his/her tweets or Facebook comments during the call, which the agents are completely unaware of. Not to mention that social media platforms are prohibited in most of the call-centers.

But the challenges are not just limited to systems, even the type of agents being employed are not suitable for handling queries on social media. Social media demands agents with higher aptitude to understand the conversations and respond more relevantly. They need to understand the social media lingo and get familiar with the dynamics of content types and their meanings.

It is very different from one-to-one conversations, which call center agents are used to over telephones. Further, the risk of errors on social media is much higher than on a phone call. We all have experienced rude behaviour of agents on call, but such actions on social media is intolerable and can lead to loss in business.

Social contact center or Social CRM

This shift in the customer engagement technique has triggered new innovation in the call center software business. These new platforms are commonly referred to as social contact center or social CRM. Most of these platforms are cloud-based software operating under SaaS licensing model. These platforms provide features and functionalities, which allow agents to manage customer complaints, queries and feedbacks on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.

These platforms are either deployed separately by the BPO companies or integrated with the existing call center platforms. Many organizations are already using stand-alone social CRM software to manage their daily customer engagement on social media. However, the main benefits from such platforms come when they are integrated with existing CRM or call center software.

In this new model of operation, the workflow adopted to respond to the customers on social media is much more sophisticated than simple canned response. The customer’s conversations are integrated with existing CRM platforms to connect with their other data like phone number, account details, case histories and even in some cases their loyalty scores. This data is then used as a reference by the agents to make relevant and personalized responses.

Though this process adds some latency to the entire customer response time, it guarantees customer satisfaction and reduces case escalation from the customer. Therefore, most organizations who have implemented such advanced process on their social care project create better customer delight moments than companies who are merely responding using canned responses without any data on the customer’s history.

In order to achieve this level of social care, the approach should be top down. The management needs to formulate proper SLA, milestones and KPIs for tracking. The key agenda in social care is measurement and optimization of the entire process. It is very easy to hire a team and involve them on social media response management, but without proper measurement the entire project might never evolve to a standard business process. Hence, besides investment on a technology, a proper team needs to be set up.

In most cases, the project is taken up by the customer service departments of the organization along with help from the IT team, to evaluate the technology. However, we are observing an increased involvement of marketing and branding teams with the social care project, making it one-of-a-kind business unit.  Customer experience managers handle the entire project, and the social service team report to him/her. The manager is in sync with all three departments IT, Marketing and Customer Support because, on social media without a proper sync between these departments, delivering customer satisfaction is impossible.

The social service agents require higher communication skills and understanding of social media. The aptitude of the team members is quite higher than that of an average support team. They are trained on the dynamics of different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Alongside the agents we are also observing involvement of a creative team from the marketing department, who can help agents deliver unique experience for customers.

For example, if a social service agent identifies the customer case where more can be done besides general responses, she can collaborate with the marketing team to initiate personalized and creative engagement to deliver customer delight. Hence, the goal of the social care team is not just to respond to negative complaints but also use this as an opportunity to create customer delight points, which can then spread the brand via word-of-mouth.

With the change in technology and business scenarios, one might ask if it’s worth investing so much on social care projects. The answer is YES! The entire customer engagement is moving towards social media. Businesses are benefiting hugely from a successful social customer service program in terms of customer satisfaction and loyalty. According to Forrester’s Customer Index, customer-centric companies gained 43% in performance, compared to a 33.9% decrease for companies who have neglected customer experience.

That being said, let’s end with a quote from Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos, who was able to single handedly create an ecommerce business, solely based on their clinically executed customer service.

“Let’s take most of the money we would’ve spent on paid advertising and paid marketing and instead of spending it on that invest it in the customer experience/customer service and then let our customers do the marketing for us through word of mouth.”

Image credit: Irish Central