CRM outsourcers need to move quickly to embrace social media in order to develop new support streams that will help them diversify revenues away from traditional functions.
According to analyst group Ovum, social media has moved beyond the point of 'fad' and poses a new opportunity for CRM outsourcers as a new channel to provide support services.
However, challenges may exist in terms of establishing how social media functions can be delivered profitably.
According to Ovum’s Peter Ryan, the staggering growth of the likes of Facebook and Twitter – which claims to be adding over 300,000 new subscribers per day – is likely to continue, particularly with the rising number of mobile devices that support social media applications.
And while the trend has not been lost on commercial enterprises, it has caught most CRM outsourcers by surprise.
"It is Ovum's view that the outsourcing vendor community needs to work quickly to develop a social media support platform alongside current voice, email and web-chat deployments," says Ryan. "Currently, the CRM outsourcer approach to dealing with the growth of this channel is somewhat scattered, reminiscent of the home agent push in 2007, when bricks and mortar vendors scrambled to develop a viable virtual agent business model that could be taken to market. Enterprises are certain to view an outsourcer's ability to engage with end users through social networking as an emerging market differentiator, especially if it enhances loyalty and satisfaction."
However, the analyst also suggests that outsourcers will need to tread carefully when formulating their strategies, ensuring that they maintain long-term vendor profitability and end-user satisfaction. And one issue in particular that needs to be resolved is the most cost-effective delivery model.
"If this channel continues to grow as rapidly as expected in the next 12 months, reflecting past growth rates, it is conceivable that lower-cost locations offshore would need to be leveraged to recruit the appropriate numbers of agents to provide the required support," says Ryan. "However, with quality concerns omnipresent, some clients may prefer to opt for a home-based agent model. The flipside of this is that it could elevate data protection and employee supervision fears among prospective clients. In addition, finding the optimal social media agent profile could prove difficult, especially as those most used to dealing with these interactions tend to be younger and tech savvy - as opposed to voice-based agents, which come from a wide demographic and are easier to find."
Nevertheless, Ryan concludes that if outsourcers can address such challenges, they are likely to find social media as a valuable stream of revenues to complement traditional customer-facing channels.
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.