CIOs: The Social Call Center

Part 11 of our series, What CIOs Need to Know About Social Media. A post on Mashable from a year and a half ago is still relevant to enterprise CIOs grappling with the impact of social media on the enterprise. In the post, Lon S. Cohen lists seven things CIOs should be considering. We’re taking a closer look at each of the item in Cohen’s framework. In this post, we take a look at Cohen’s fifth point, Impact On Operating Environment.

Creating the Social Call Center

You can create a social-media-enabled call center from your existing customer and internal call response capabilities via a combination of tweaks, training, and new capabilities. You definitely don’t need to stop what you’re currently doing, blow up your current call centers and start over.

Typical call center


Why should you get involved in social media monitoring and response? Market Force Information, a customer intelligence firm, says these functions are becoming ever more critical for enterprises, “Because the impact of negative customer experiences has never been greater for brands. With the ability to instantly broadcast their frustrations, consumers can turn a single adverse instance into a PR nightmare. Estimates show that defecting customers will typically share their negative experiences with eight to 10 people, and one in five will tell 20 people. Yet, a well-handled response can actually increase loyalty.”[1]

Before you do the social call center makeover, however, you should have a strategy. Ideally, your social media call center strategy will flow from an overall organizational social media strategy. (We talk about creating an enterprise social media strategy in a series of posts from our Be a Person: The Enterprise Social Operating Manual, beginning with Create Social Computing Strategies.)

Once your strategy, objectives, and tactics are in place, your social media makeover effort should involve at least the following points:

  • Call center operators should use their own names. It is social networking, after all. Operators may not want to use their full names, however, and if this is the case, adopting a name convention using first name and last initial should suffice. But strongly consider having agents respond as themselves, including information about their social media participation. Our mantra, Be a Person, implies using the people in your organization as the face of your enterprise. Whether you look at it this way or not, your call center associates are the face of your enterprise to their callers, and the front line of humanizing your organization. Allow them the freedom to be themselves rather than adhering strictly to scripts. This may be the biggest transformation you need to undertake in your social media makeover.
  • Ensure that social media interactions are made a part of callers’ customer history. In fact, if you are in the market for a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, ability to track social media should be an important vendor selection criterion.
  • Call center agents should have access to a complete customer profile before responding. Depending on the volume of call center social responses, you may want them to create a new profile for every interaction.
  • Decide if call center agents are responsible for social media monitoring. Tracking what is said on social media is a crucial part of any enterprise’s social media practice. If your center is responsible for this activity, your operators will be monitoring customer-to-customer conversations on a variety of platforms. You’ll probably want to track which comments and content come from which sites and harvest profile information from the person’s profile on the sites in question. There are plenty of third-party applications that can help with this. Your biggest concerns will be how to integrate this monitoring into your CRM and call center operations, and how to report it out to the relevant areas of your enterprise.
  • Ensure that all agents are properly trained on social media. This may seem like a no-brainer, but if your operators aren’t well-versed in the capabilities and differences in the way they engage with different social networking sites, you run the risk of making it into our Social Media Hall of Shame. At the very least, agents must understand when their interactions on social media are public, and when they are private (for example, direct messaging on Twitter versus simply responding).
  • Set clear guidelines on selling. If sales and promotion are among the responsibilities of your call center, you need to be very careful in how this is done on social media. You’ll find that users of social media are generally fine with being pitched as long as it’s in the context of a conversation or a relationship. If the conversation is initiated by the social media user and concerns products or services, you’ll create one guideline. If the contact is initiated by your call center, you should have another. In general, if your agents are helpful, provide useful content, and aren’t obnoxious about selling, you’ll be more successful. Remember that social media is a powerful sales medium, but the most successful technique for sales is through recommendations by friends, not via push messages.
  • Provide a process flow for responses. We like the Air Force response decision tree that we mentioned in the previous post, Use Social Media to Manage Corporate Reputation. In general, agents should be trained and consistently reminded of your processes for dealing with negatives. As Meg Gerritsen Knodl said at a recent Social Media Breakfast, “There is a point where the conversation is over, and you don’t need to respond”

So far we’ve been focusing on the work you need to do to transform your call center and some of the risks involved. Next we’ll take a look at the benefits

Up next: Benefits of the Social Call Center.

For soup-to-nuts, strategy to execution processes, procedures and how-to advice, see our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises. The book (itself part of a series for different audiences), is available in paper form at Save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

[1] Market Force