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Should social customer service be integrated into the call centre?

Next month, MyCustomer.com will be taking a deeper look at social media customer service and one of the interesting debates we've been having with experts over recent weeks is whether or not brands should have a dedicated team responsible for all social customer service or whether it should be integrated into the contact centre.

What's your opinion? Should call centre agents pick up social feedback and respond or should it a centralised team take responsibility for social service? 

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04th Jun 2013 17:46

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn community One of the challenges in companies who seek to add social media customer service to their contact centre operations, is the danger that staff who are heavily trained in another channel are assigned to social without a full understanding of how things differ. That said, social media is the one channel where customers will choose to volunteer their views, in their own words and in their own time. There is a certain richness to that kind of unprompted feedback but, as ever, it must be viewed in context. 

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05th Jun 2013 10:58

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn community

In practice, social media Customer service has its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. By itself, there are a handful of companies that are able to manage with only that. To really perform good customer service, there needs to a balance of the two. The nature of the the business being support might drive the nature of the appearance of the program.

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05th Jun 2013 11:00

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn community

In my opinion, the social media CS team should be a dedicated team since the overall approach towards handling & responding to the social feedback differes from the one followed in the customer contact centre. The social media CS executives should be professionally trained to take up the responsibility.

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05th Jun 2013 11:01

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn community

The Social media platform is an open form to use and abuse by customer, be it sales, service,warranties/general opinion or feedback. The merger with CS Call center should not be allowed rather a dedicated team of people should handle, coordinate and resolve. As the comments are public, one satisfied customer will lead the example and make way for better branding. Even if something has to be denied this should be done with complete justification.

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05th Jun 2013 11:02

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn community

I suggest we look at it from the customer viewpoint.......More and more people say to me that they use Social Media to make customer service related comments and complaints, expecting that they will get a response. 
Therefore any organisation wanting to provide excellent Customer Service must have customer service professionals able to handle these interactions in harmony with how customers are handled through other channels. The logical place for this is in the Contact Centre (the omni-channel 'hub' for assisting customers) with a team that is properly trained on Social Media. 
A totally separate, 'dedicated' team is dangerous, since it is potentially going to become siloed from other customer service teams and provide a 'different' customer experience from other channels.

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Thanks for your comments all. The industry still seems divided on the issue of where the call centre sits in an organisation but alongside Martin, Sanyogita and Mark, all are united in the belief that social service staff should be properly trained.

When speaking to professionals recently, the topic of recruiting future staff came up and many commented on the industry’s move away from competency-based interviews, with organisations now focusing on emotional intelligence and recruiting from the likes of their customers.

Do you think this would help organisations better serve their customers’ service requests via social channels?

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05th Jun 2013 21:52

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn community

I agree with Mark - to have a team operating in a silo is dangerous - no matter what the activity - and especially with Social Media... The clue is in the name - how can it be properly "social" if it is this rarefied team acting in isolation?! It needs to be blended - but it can't be left to chance. 
Each Social Platform will have its own tone, and the expectation of interaction style with consumers will differ from Google +, to Facebook, to Twitter, etc.... It's important it's the right type of interaction, at the right time and with the right tone. 
One thing is clear though - it can't be done as a "filler" between calls - it needs to be a deliberate and focused part of the overall customer delivery strategy.

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05th Jun 2013 21:54

Thanks for your comments. Does anybody have any evidence - anecdotal or otherwise - of how some of the leading performers structure their social media customer service?

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06th Jun 2013 13:09

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn community

The Social Media team should be a separate team, but not necessarily a contact center department. By nature, the team must handle "all kinds" of social media talk, and thus be reporting to an overall Chief Customer Officer (if one exist). The team spans everything from Word of mouth, marketing, sales and service, thus must be skilled in all aspects with the right response. 

About the social media team: Since the nature of customer talk in social media spans "everything",- the team should consist of a mix of both marketing and customer support employees. Since an unfortunate response to a customer comment could potentially be dangerous for the company(we have all seen examples), the employees should work close together and in small teams, where they concurrently discuss how to respond to the topics popping up. There should be several 5-10 minute meetings each day to discuss "how to respond", based on real examples (active learning). The employees should be trained in company strategy, sales pitches, highlevel product knowledge, empathy, social customer behaviour. The customer support employees within the team should naturally have deep product expertise, in addition to above. 

In addition, the team must have "coordinating" personell (maybe the manager), meaning someone who's got the multichannel view and knowledge, ie. the person should know if average waiting time for the call center is 5 minutes, if the web-site online purchase process has a tendency to crash, etc. 

Ie. We are back to the need for a Chief Customer Officer in charge of all customer processes (mkt, sales, service), making sure the customer experience is taken care of through all the internal channels beeing in sync.

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07th Jun 2013 09:50

The Social Media 'HUB' should be integrated as part of the contact centre but from a Brand/Marketing/Communication dimension separate; the 'Social Relationship Manager' should have a Marketing/Brand 'ownership' however should follow and route 'issues' to the relevant people on the company. Pervasive as it is the 'social' channel should be managed very carefully I suppose much like the 'retain' team on the Telco sector. 

There are exceptions, and certainly from a retail perspective at least if the enterprise is using the social channel as the customer acquisition and/or service channel I suppose a full integrated Customer Service 'hub' makes sense but still separate as the skillset and proficiency on communication must be much higher than an operator on the phone. 

I agree that no company should go on a siloed approach if embarking on Social ... as Mark noted the customer experience should be fully integrated across all channels.

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10th Jun 2013 12:01

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn community

I think it is inevitable that social customer service will be integrated into the call centre. Companies like Tesco are already taking note of this and have a dedicated team for social. Here is a good link outlining some of their processhttp://www.conversocial.com/blog/entry/how-tesco-leads-the-way-in-social-customer-service 

Here is another example of Hertz, who have also been leading the way and taking customer service on social very seriously http://www.conversocial.com/blog/entry/hertz-social-customer-service-gold-the-insiders-perspective 

Customer service on social is different than your more traditional channels and should be treated so with regards the way you respond and deal with issues. I think as time goes on, it will become part of customer service machine for brands and agents will be trained as they are on email, phone and the Social Media Hub will become a part of the call centre.

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Thanks for the additional comments and the brand examples from Ken. Are there any examples of how smaller brands are structuring their social service operations?

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10th Jun 2013 17:50

Comment on this article from the MyCustomer LinkedIn community. For me, the question is less about whether social customer care should be a separate team or part of the contact centre, and more about what shape will customer service take over the coming years.  Social media has been catalytic in the decentralisation of customer service, eroding away our traditional notion of customer service. I think part of the challenge is shifting the conversation away from the technology/platform to the underlying business model. What will customer service look like in five years? Will it still be carried out by a customer service function, or will customer service be the function of employees, customers and vendors coming together on a shared platform? The answer to that will in some way answer where customer service should sit and how it should be structured.

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12th Jun 2013 09:22

 Comment from the MyCustomer Google+ community I feel it should be a centralised team from within the organisation as oppose to an outsourced agency. As one thing social media does do well is it gets to the heart of what the business is about very quickly to the customer. For example does the business really care about their customers´ concerns? Well using social media as a tool to quickly respond to their concerns in a professional manner speaks volumes to me.

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12th Jun 2013 13:06

Comment from this post on the MyCustomer LinkedIn group

It is quite common to find many companies that are dealing with customer care communication channels in a siloed way, without really taking care of the content embedded into one conversation - usually formed by more than a single interaction.

Social Media are other channels with a specific communication semantics but they should be integrated into the customer service and contact center. Resources into the contact center should be trained and skilled to manage conversations over multiple channels so to be able to steer conversation on the most suitable channel. Social Media are changing our way to interact with Organizations and Customers are expecting to have a consistent conversation experience independently from what channel is used.

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27th Aug 2013 17:29

Comment from this post on the MyCustomer LinkedIn group

Companies who ignoring their customers service issues on social media are missing out on huge opportunities to regain the loyalty of a disgruntled customer base. 

Regarding the call center, yes, allowing your agents to respond to customer service issues will strengthen your companies ability to respond and react more effectively. As Martin previously noted, adequate training is essential for integration.

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27th Aug 2013 17:32

Comment from this post on the MyCustomer LinkedIn group

I would like to add to Guy's very valid comments, reinforcing his point about Social (and Mobile) challenging not just the Contact Centre organisation and operating model, but the whole organisation ! 

Customers are demanding the ability to interact through whatever channel they want - and Social is up towards the top - as well as immediacy in how we respond to their needs. 
Technology already enables us to have a 'virtual' service team, with immediate access to experts wherever they might be in our organisation physically, so it is more about whether we have the organisational ability - and will - to effectively manage and coordinate how we respond across the traditional organisational boundaries (between Marketing/Sales/Service/Supply Chain/Production etc.) to deliver a harmonious experience aligned to our customers expectations......... 
 

I believe that the winners of the future are tackling this now, restructuring their operation around their customer needs and answering the 'thorny' subject: "Who owns the Customer ??"

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27th Aug 2013 17:33

Comment from this post on the MyCustomer LinkedIn group

Just as a side note to what Mark has said...it's also interesting when customers don't explicitly demand to interact with companies but nevertheless provide highly useful information, such as when discussing their experiences with online peers. 

In this case it's about meeting demand as well as not missing opportunities.

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27th Aug 2013 17:34

Comment from this post on the MyCustomer LinkedIn group

In my view, social media still is at a stage where companies are still exploring it and thus the ideal path is to start with a dedicated team. However, since social media is one of the touch point, it makes sense to have few folks from the traditional contact center to be a part of this team. Thus let this team fail, learn and thereby adopt the best practices which meets the specific needs of the company and the folks from traditional contact center thereby gets the hang of it. As I read in some of the earlier posts, the key is to balance and have a perfect blend of channel specific SMEs as well as multi-channel customer service generalists.

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12th Mar 2014 16:57

There seem to be a mix of opinions here - some great comments. In my personal opinion I'm with the comments at the top, I believe social media to be a whole different entity, it's fast and things need to be done in real time, including customer service. I think it should be a separate department as it's only growing - particularly with the diversification of platforms such as Vine, Instagram and SnapChat.

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