Dreamforce last week was a great place to run into tens of thousands of people working on aspects of customer engagement. Some were in marketing, some in the Social Media area, others in sales and others in customer service. The event is covered by multiple bloggers around the United States and requires no remarks from me. What is noteworthy is the trend in the marketplace towards a shift in where to engage customers. Most of the consultancies, integrators, and software solution providers advocate an intense focus on social media channels. Forget those tired and trodden customer service agents and that primitive toolkit of telephone, chat and email, they suggest. Go Social.
Back in the second half of the 1800s a 150 year migration away from the US East Coast into the middle of the country and then to the West began. The sarcastic subtitle to this phenomenon was ‘foul your nest and head out West,’ as it reflected the idea that there was an infinite “West” to migrate to. Don’t worry about where you are, or the quality of the environment, or sustainable living, because you can always migrate West. That captures the current abandonment of the world of the classic customer service contact center (phone/email/chat) in favor of pushing the engagement to Facebook and Twitter. Instead of a more engaged and informed customer service agent, let’s just leave them with the tools that they have and add engagement on social channels.
Think about this: the global consultancy firms first pushed the idea of outsourcing the customer service process to third party Customer Service agents. Then they suggested pushing everything else possible to customer self service. Now that the consumer backlash is married to technology change (angry customer meets social media), the focus becomes.. social media engagement. Most software vendors have let their core agent desktops age beyond the point of salvage, and they were the meal ticket for the large CRM consultancies. With no opportunity to revolutionize the nature of customer engagement via a new Customer Service Suite that includes collaboration with the customer and the employee, the future of the customer engagement console becomes a complex mishmash of bits sewn together.
How sustainable is a house of cards? There are so many incredibly exciting new CRM applications for social, mobile, customer engagement, and content delivery, yet at the same time the underlying desktop for the Cloud-based) customer service agent is in serious trouble for users in many industries (health insurance, telecommunications/media, utilities, government, travel/hospitality…).
Clients face terrific new opportunities, yet we need to be careful in not abandoning the core customer service agent abilities that make for a winning customer experience. Much of what inspired the “Social” revolution was the sorry state of customer service, which in turn, put simplistically, was a cost-cutting frenzy that put short term profit in reduced expenses over a long-term strategy of customer satisfaction. We did not want to listen to the customer’s voice, but we suddenly want to hear their complaints? The complaints that they have because you wouldn’t speak to them quickly, accurately, knowledgeably, politely? So many people say: I don’t ever want to speak with an agent. True. So why would they want to engage on Facebook or via a Tweet with the same uninformed, time-pressed person? And where does the history of this new interaction go?
There are so many challenges to the brave world of social media, and the biggest might be in not running away from the human element that, whether you call it a call center or a contact center or a customer engagement center, still requires human beings.
Thanks, as always, for your emails with examples of what you are doing – they are very helpful and occasionally inspiring!
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