social media handled in call centers

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

3 reasons to bring social media into the contact center

Traditionally, government agencies have invested heavily in updating their web presence to provide citizens with real-time information. However, many citizens prefer to find, digest and post information on social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook.  

Integrating social media into the contact center as a core customer interaction channel is a relatively new idea for government agencies, but commercial enterprises are already recognizing this as the way forward. A recent blog by contact center analysts DMG Consulting projected that “within five years, the number of relevant social media interactions will be equal to the number of phone interactions, with 70 to 80 percent being service-oriented and requiring attention.”

Why should government agencies embrace a social media contact center strategy?

Reason #1 – Citizens have long gone social.

Four years ago, the Facebook nation was 400 million strong and considered an unheard-of growth phenomenon. Now, at over 1 billion users, it illustrates government’s opportunity to transform public services if frontline officers can harness the right tools to better deal with these new channels. Research from global analyst firm Yankee Group found that 70 percent of citizens want to interact by social media. Other industry research shows:

  • 73 percent of public sector organizations believe digital engagement and social media can contribute towards efficiency savings.
  • 19 percent of public sector employees believe social media can provide customer services
  • 24 percent of local government councils have reduced face-to-face visitors as result of using social media.

Reason #2 – Citizens have taken control of the government’s digital perimeter.

Citizens are now driving the dialog across government service delivery by flagging issues and suggesting potential fixes that can complement the knowledge and insight of agency officials. Rather than traditional touch points such as face-to-face, over-the-counter services, e-service and voice-only call centers, the digital perimeter of the organization is now the central and most important factor for citizen service satisfaction. Agencies can’t afford to underinvest in managing these interactions.

Some government organizations rely on their communications and marketing department to handle citizen engagement. However, as the number of potential social interactions involving government increases, the volume of social channel monitoring, filtering, routing and responding will become too cumbersome for ad hoc approaches and too much for a marketing department to manage. For government, this puts even more importance on seamlessly integrating multimedia, social and interactive channels into the contact center – where the critical mass of citizen interaction skills and resources reside.

Reason #3 – Handling social in the contact center is more efficient and effective.

While it has taken over 10 years for email response management to become truly mainstream in the contact center industry, the unprecedented growth of social media will make it a standard channel in contact centers in less than five years. And it can be handled like any other customer interaction channel.

Social media can be brought into the contact center using the same routing engine, reporting database and management tools that agencies are currently using for voice, email and web chat channels. In addition, contact centers are designed to manage large volumes of contacts efficiently and effectively, and it can be more efficient to use a critical mass or a pool of contact center agents to address social media -- especially leveraging content automation tools as volumes progressively increase. Contact center agents also have skills that will help them interact on social media. Agencies can leverage existing investments in infrastructure, technology and processes and create a single focal point for all live citizen interactions, while avoiding an inconsistent or disjointed customer experience.

How it works

On social media, citizens comment on government services, engage in dialogs with other citizens, ask questions and dispense both praise and complaints. Agencies can implement automated monitoring tools to identify and capture those comments, then categorize, prioritize, filter and send them to the contact center routing engine, which then route the comment to the best available agent. With the assistance of knowledge tools and response templates, the agent posts a response back to the social media site where the comment originated. Tools are also available to provide real-time tracking and historical reports, which can be used by contact center managers and provide key customer service metrics.

Fairly or unfairly, many citizens have built-in expectations regarding government customer service response times. Integrating social media into government agencies’ contact centers helps improve customer service and the speed with which interactions can occur, while reducing costs. Building a socially engaged contact center improves agencies’ relationships with citizens that can save agency time and resources in the process. This is the future of unified communications.

About the Author

Don Greco is the executive director, Customer Interaction Practice, North America, at Unify Inc.

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