No social media quick fix

Social media has taken the world by storm, and most companies are anxious to cash in on its benefits.

August 5, 2013

Social media has taken the world by storm, and most companies are anxious to cash in on its benefits. But there is no quick fix when it comes to effective social media use, says Karl Reed, Chief Marketing & Solutions Officer at Elingo.

There are huge potential benefits to using social media for sales and customer interactions. But companies that get it wrong risk cutting themselves off at the knees.

What too many companies fail to realise is that social media is complex, involves multiple channels and has to be run effectively as an integrated part of the contact centre, in order for it to be effective. In business, when you are dealing with social media, there is no quick fix. But if you get the strategy and implementation right, you can make significant improvements to your business.

Strategic planning first

While a social media presence can pay handsome dividends in terms of sales, leads and customer satisfaction, it is not necessary for every company to have one. If a company has a small, select customer base, a social media presence would make no sense. For most, though, a social media presence is becoming crucial.

Before companies rush to enter the social media space, they should have a strategic plan in place. They need to consider what they want to achieve through social media. Entering the social media space just because ‘everyone else is doing it’ is a bad idea, and likely to be detrimental to the company.

Companies need to consider their social media goals, the social media management plan, and the systems that will be implemented to integrate social media into the contact centre and enterprise systems, in order to interact effectively on social media platforms.

Choose social media spokesmen carefully

Integrating social media into the contact centre is not simply a matter of putting agents onto social media platforms and leaving them to run with it. In fact, doing so could be disastrous.

Consider the simple fact that not everyone has excellent writing skills. An agent appointed for their ability to hold an engaging voice conversation is likely not a strong writer too. Different agents will have different writing styles, and will interpret and share information in different ways; but a company needs to speak with a consistent voice across all social media channels. In online social media, the communication is highly public and permanent; therefore you need only agents trained and proficient in social media writing to be managing the social media interactions.

The cost of a social media presence

Social media is about ongoing, personal interactions – it is not a broadcast channel. Around 60% of customers use social media to vent frustrations; and around 70% – 75% of people use social media to get online feedback and responses, to determine whether they will do business with a company. This means responses must be virtually immediate, and they must resolve the customer’s problem and answer any questions.

In order to do so, a company must have a 360-degree view of the customer, his problem, and his previous interactions with the company. Systems to enable this 360-degree view are now available, but implementing them comes at a cost – quite possibly including the full reverse-engineering of existing legacy systems.

The company must also have sufficient dedicated social media agents to handle these channels. If the average contact centre agent is productive for 45 – 50 minutes of every hour, and a suitable response to a Tweet requires 10 minutes; the average agent can respond to four or five Tweets per hour. A company aiming to respond to a thousand Tweets a day would therefore need 20 – 25 dedicated agents, meaning a significant investment in terms of skilled staff and resources, simply to manage these Twitter interactions.

Suitable systems

Maximising the potential for social media depends on advanced systems that not only ‘funnel’ information from all social media platforms into a single channel; they must also integrate effectively into the contact centre systems and the enterprise systems, financial systems and process automation systems.

In recent years, advanced social media interaction management systems have come to market to help control the information coming in from social media, as well as allowing service agents to understand who customers are, who they connected to and what their history with the company is, and then distribute the information to the correct person to handle that type of query efficiently. These systems effectively ‘connect the dots’, allowing for more effective contact centres and better customer experience. However, these systems have not been widely implemented in South Africa yet.

It is important to note that there is no ‘silver bullet’ first time implementation of a social media interaction management system. It may take several phases of adjustment, tweaking and re-architecting to produce a system that effectively addresses all the social media interaction requirements of each company. It may also require months of reverse engineering of existing systems to integrate the new system.

Once the system is running effectively, however, companies usually realise significant improvements in their efficiencies and customer satisfaction levels.

Because consumers now expect to interact with companies using the social media platforms of their choice, and still receive high levels of service and rapid responses, most contact centres should be looking to their social media strategic planning. How companies prepare for their social media customer interaction now will determine how successful their businesses are in years to come.