UK: The Rise Of The Social Contact Centre

Last Updated: 20 November 2013
Article by David Ross

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

In the last two decades customer support and the contact centre have changed radically. Fading into the distance is the old world of crackly telephone lines and stamped self-addressed envelopes, and coming towards us at full speed is a brave new one, with more ways of getting in touch, a more demanding customer, and an ever closer link between service, sales and marketing meaning that providing a great experience is more critical than ever. The social revolution has created vast challenges for support teams – but it can also provide solutions in the form of a social contact centre that combines traditional and new support channels. In this blog I will briefly outline this 'social challenge' of channel proliferation and demanding social customers, and follow this with two ways in which the social contact centre can help overcome this.

The 'social challenge'...

The growth in social media has led to a proliferation of customer support channels. Joining the old channels of post and phone and the new-ish channels of email and website are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and customer forums – with mobile increasingly becoming the medium of choice. This social channel has grown explosively - research by Avaya indicates that 16% of customers surveyed now contact firms via social media, up from almost zero 10 years ago. Not only are more customers contacting via social, but they are more demanding, with 74% expecting a response within an hour. While social media is rocketing up the agenda for firms (a recent study of 3,400 executives by Deloitte and MIT Sloan, found that 80% believe social media has a key role to play in building customer relationships), many companies do not have a social contact strategy to handle this convergence of social and customer support leading to a 'social challenge'.

...and two solutions from the social contact centre

So how can this social challenge of channel proliferation and shorter customer attention span be resolved? Two elements of a social contact centre can provide a partial solution.

The first is a multi-channel case management system to act as 'social contact centre hub' that aggregates cases from across channels on one accessible screen for a customer support agent. Products produced by a number of vendors combine cases from all channels so that an agent can track conversations across different mediums and build a holistic, 360 degree view of the customer and interaction. The impact of such a tool can be hugely powerful, providing a consistent and insightful customer experience in an environment where 'channel shift' as individuals change medium of contact.

The second is to use a forum product that allows peer-to-peer support. Typically used in conjunction with an FAQ's or suggestions page, these forums can have an extraordinary effect on customer service – diverting calls from the contact centre, building brand advocacy and providing faster answers to customers. To rattle off a few statistics demonstrating the power of such forums... only 14% of users trust adverts, but 90% trust a peer recommendation, examples of up to 400% increase in customer engagement, some customers can be supported for less than a penny per query online, massive growth of first call resolution as customer is more informed, building of superfans who are active brand advocates – purchasing more and influencing others to do the same... and so on. Forums can be a fantastic solution for certain industries, although they take time to grow and don't provide instant results, developing often in a more experimental and organic fashion. Telcos in particular have had great success with forums, many benefitting from call deflection rates in the high teens.

Now it's worth noting these challenges and social media channel growth is not uniform across industries – and nor does it mean the twilight for the more traditional channels. Indeed, last month I met with a number of contact centre managers who were discussing the call centre operations of a major UK supermarket – they were receiving hundreds of tweets a day with customers seeking a very rapid reply. However the social media channel in question represented less than 1% of all customer service requests, with phone still the largest. Now I suspect that this balancing act between a vocal minority and hidden majority is relatively common – which in turn provides more weight for a social hub to aggregate contact by all channels and a forum to deflect noisier customers to.

In conclusion...

While the social challenge is great, the social solution in the form of a social contact centre can resolve many of the difficulties if utilised correctly. We'd love to get your feedback and thoughts on this growing area – and if you have any questions about the social contact centre, or social sales and marketing, please comment below, or get in touch with David Ross or Gill Simpson.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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