In my last post, I managed to accomplish two things. First, I demonstrated that when you don’t read back blog posts carefully you can use the same words and phrases too much, particularly when a mild cold has you a bit off your game. Second, that there may be reason to approach adding social media to the contact center with some skepticism. Comments I’ve received from various sources indicated one of two things – that enabling social media for the contact center can be quite beneficial to the enterprise if executed properly and that adding such support is inevitable as a consequence of shifting consumer behaviors. And, despite my skepticism, I actually find both of things to be true. Which means that the question isn’t “should the contact center be connected to social media?” The question is “how can enterprises stage themselves to successfully integrate social media into the contact center?”
This means that skepticism might be valid because we shouldn’t focus too heavily on the channel, but the way that the channel will be used. It’s fairly common that in my interactions with contact center customers, the focus is (rightly) on how to deliver service to customers using the applications and infrastructure that have been built out for the contact center. The view is one of a service organization with relatively common goals – service customers quickly, efficiently, and effectively. This view needs to change as the contact center shifts into the social arena because the nature of interactions in the social space is typically far less goal-oriented or focused from the perspective of the customers that the contact center is attempting to interact with.
The comments I’ve received about this last blog post universally include one word that needs to become the focus of planning for the social contact center: “engagement.” If an enterprise approaches social media strictly as a means of delivering service in a new way, it’s fairly likely to fail because there are better avenues to achieve that goal. But if social media are used to increase engagement with customers that provide for a more positive and lasting relationship between the enterprise and the customer, provide outbound information in a timely and useful fashion, gather feedback or opinions, and maintain a conversation with the customer, then we’re talking about something that can increase loyalty and provide a valuable channel to both parties.
This requires more than just connecting the media, it requires developing a firm understanding of the best way to enable engagement. This isn’t something that the contact center can do alone. It requires that the contact center, marketing, public relations, and the lines of business develop strategies to integrate social media into a broad spectrum of activities. Without this type of strategy, the contact center cannot engage in a structured and consistent fashion that reinforces messaging and strengthens branding. Worse, if entering the various social networks is poorly coordinated, the mistakes will play out on a large stage which can result in negative rather than positive impacts.
In other words, to overcome skepticism about adding social media to the contact center’s range of communications and collaboration enterprises need to focus not only the contact center, but a far broader social strategy. This needs to be built around a firm understanding of the organization’s customers, a clear definition of how social media will fit into other marketing, branding, and support activities, and well-defined ways to leverage social media to guide customers to the right resources to meet their needs. This isn’t necessarily an easy task and needs to appropriate sponsorship to achieve. Enterprises that approach social media as a part of an overall communications and messaging strategy rather than “just” as an extension of the contact center have reason to discard skepticism. Others? Well, there’s reason to be skeptical regarding the chances of success.