Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Social networking and the contact center: customer service goes social

According to independent market analysis firm Datamonitor, companies of all sizes have begun to engage customers and prospects on social networking services. Much of that activity has been pure marketing, but some leading edge companies have started to offer customer service and support through social networking. This, according to the firm’s new report ‘The Rise of Social Networking and Emerging Channels in Customer Service’, has started companies thinking of ways to connect their key customer service resource—the contact center—to social networks.

Individuals are constructing elaborate online social networks that in many cases are significantly broader than their real-world equivalents. These exponentially expanding webs of connections lead to viral communications: a customer’s uncommonly good experience with a company is no longer heard about just by that person’s four close friends, but by thousands. The converse is also true, of course, and complaints about products and services go viral very quickly.

The increased corporate presence on these networks has also led to service interactions between company and customer. Some of these interactions result from a direct contact from a customer to a company (akin to a phone call into a contact center). But with new social media monitoring tools, companies have also begun to inject themselves into customer conversations. If, for example, a customer complains to the world at large about poor service, the company being complained about proactively reaches out to the customer to try to solve the issue.

Essentially all of the customer service and support being performed today on online social networks comes from social media specialists within companies. These staffers have the latitude required to understand both the written and unwritten rules of social networking and can imbue the service interactions with some personality.

However, this model cannot scale to meet the exponential growth which online social networking services are experiencing. Therefore, according to Datamonitor there is a clear opportunity for customer interaction technology providers to create solutions that provide scalability for these support operations, primarily by allowing formal contact center environments to handle some or all of these interactions. There are, of course, numerous technological, business process and cultural hurdles to overcome before this model can gain a strong foothold in the enterprise market.

More information on customer relationship management can be found at

No comments: