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RE: Social Media in the Contact Center

Cisco Employee

A few days ago, Paul Stockford (analyst with Saddletree Research, research director at the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) and fellow blogger here) wrote an insightful post on the state of Social Media in the Contact Center.  Paul shares data that reflects a slow-burn adoption to date.  It's a topic I've been meaning to write about for a while now, so thanks Paul for the perfect lead in!

I've coined a phrase to describe a common theme I see when trying to understand why it has been a slow ramp; it is about the complexities of formalizing the interaction channel.

When customers engage a company by phone, through the web, or in person, there are a series of explicit and implied promises on both sides.  These are interactions with you and your company.  You are formally engaged - committed to acknowledging, responding, resolving, and delivering on the explicit and implied promises of value and satisfaction.

When someone tweets #insert_your_company_name, what are the explicit and implied promises?

On one hand, it's easy to say the service promises are all the same, regardless of the interaction channel.  Same customers, same company.

On the other hand, when you look closer at the nuances of Social Media, I'd suggest it isn't so simple.  A subtle, but important distinction is that these are largely comments about you and your company.  Another important point, you need not be a customer to say something about anything.

In the world of Social Media where anyone can participate, anywhere, anytime, and no relationship is required, the real business decision is do you engage?  Do you formalize Social Media as a means of doing business? Sometimes? Always? Never?  Then if you do, are all of the promises the same?

All the satisfaction and loyalty experts tell you to care deeply about what people say about you.  They are right, you should.  That is, however, very different than committing to respond and engage the way you do when contacted directly.

I also offer this opinion: seldom today does anyone commenting about a company in Social Media expect a formal response.  And if they do, it is clearly a different expectation than engaging that company directly.  After all, if I tweet about a company in a personal profile, who am I talking to? What do I expect in terms of a response? resolution?

And therein lies what I see as a critical driver of the slow-burn adoption of Social Media in the Contact Center.

Social Media is largely a megaphone today. Companies talk about themselves or things they think are interesting.  People talk about themselves, their experiences, their likes and ideas.  Excluding forums for a moment (if you count that as Social Media), it has not yet evolved to a widely recognized means to ask for something of someone not defined as your friend or follower.

It is my personal opinion that in order for Social Media to really ramp in the Contact Center context, there needs to be a way to formalize it as an interaction channel.

  • Links need to be made between individuals Social Media profiles and companies those people hold relationships with.  Let us not forget that while younger generations seemingly participate in Social Media with little regard for privacy, I personally think it will still be a while before this becomes the norm for the majority of populations. 
  • Companies also need to be tooled to efficiently and accurately discern "about you" and "with or from you." 
  • And of great importance, companies need to be able to do so with great scale - which probably means automated analysis and intelligence.  Lots of ways to listen to just about anything in the "social-sphere" right now, but not many ways to efficiently harness and manage it all. 

I believe only when these things happen easily and work well, can organizations begin to effectively formalize Social Media as an interaction channel in which they can do business with customers (current and future!)

Until then, as Paul says, I too think we're in for the marathon.

Director, Operations
Customer Interaction Network
and the Contact Center Unification Framework


Very well thought out, Brian.  Once the industry hype over social media in the contact center dies down, as it inevitably will, the real work will begin.  These types of rational discussions will be what will drive social media to realize its potential as a customer service and market intelligence tool.

Cisco Employee

Inciteful write up Brian.  I think it's a great point about defining the implicit promises of social media engagement, what the expectations are from it's users, and how a value can be discerned.  Good stuff.

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