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How does social customer service affect contact centers?

As more consumers utilize social media customer service options, organizations are finding it's important to create strategies to handle company responses.

While traditional customer service often takes place over the phone between customers and agents, social customer service -- or social CRM -- is new and becoming increasingly popular. In this dynamic, trained customer service agents answer customer inquiries and handle customer support issues over social media -- at least initially.

Many customers, particularly those who are younger, may prefer the medium of social media to phone calls, and some inquiries may be resolved more efficiently in this customer communication channel. On the other hand, social platforms may be best suited to addressing customer concerns only initially. Subsequently, it may make more sense to have a one-on-one conversation in email or over the phone to best resolve questions or concerns.

Organizations must outline strategies for responding to inquiries via social media, including when to take conversations private, how to communicate to consistently promote the brand image, and how to monitor social media for both positive and negative interactions. Contact center agents often need to be trained in social customer service, from the proper tone and level of support to provide in these communication channels to being trained in social media monitoring and metrics platforms that can monitor customer service issues and gather analytics on the information there.

Social customer service has had a significant impact on organizations in general, and contact centers in particular:

Social media can affect the brand. Social media comments are visible to a large audience, and brand images can be adversely affected. Contact centers have expanded their ambassador role for the organization, handling both one-to-one customer interactions and addressing highly visible and potentially risky customer comments.

Social media forces heightened urgency. Social media comments can spread instantaneously or, as is often referred to, virally. Typical contact center key performance indicators (KPIs) such as speed of answer or response time are no longer sufficient. Social media comments must be responded to quickly to minimize a customer's -- or lurking group's -- perception that a customer has been ignored.

Social media usually assumes the customer is right. Social media comments from customers may not always be correct, but an initial assumption of many followers is that it is correct. Organizations need to develop strategies and communications to fix incorrect perceptions.

Social media is an opportunity to fix problems. Social media is bringing a new focus on fixing customer issues throughout an organization. Organizations have focused their attention on identifying the root cause of customer issues and fixing problems to eliminate breakdowns and improve the overall customer experience.

Using metrics to resolve issues. Social customer service enables companies to be even more responsive than they were with phone- or email-based methods and to get a more complete, 360-degree view of customers. The following are just some of the metrics that experts suggest companies enlist in social customer service strategies:

  • Time to first response.
  • Average handling time of issues -- overall and by agent.
  • Percent of inquiries managed by social channel -- such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Changes in sentiment among customers.
  • Changes in customer satisfaction.

The impact of social media on organizations has been significant: It has expanded the role of the contact center and also forced companies to re-evaluate how they treat their customers.

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