Incorporate Social Media and Unified Communications in the Contact Center

By Bob Hockman

Companies can no longer be satisfied with running a monolithic contact center. Social media has insinuated itself into businesses, rapidly transforming from a form of entertainment into a required asset for customer care. The reach of social media is broad, encompassing everything from branding to awareness, from marketing to customer service. In fact, adding social media tools to the enterprise communication infrastructure engages customers and promotes both loyalty and longevity.

In order to keep up with the competition and retain customers, companies cannot ignore this new key ingredient in the conversational contact center. On the other hand, organizations that rush into a social media deployment without comprehensive planning and validation run the risk of tarnishing their reputations.

So, what do you need to know to ensure that your unified communications implementation will bring you the full benefits available? Here are the top five things to consider.

  1. Customers are always “on” and want to communicate in their preferred way. There is no doubt that voice has been, and still is, king. Across the globe, most people who have to communicate with a vendor want to talk to a person. At the same time, other methods of communication, such as video, IM, and social networks, are growing in importance and usage. With all of these options available, it is important during the planning stages of a unified communications implementation that you gain a clear understanding of the ways that your company’s audience prefers to interact. Since all forms of communication are interconnected in today’s complex networks, you must ensure that one form of communication will not negatively affect another. For instance, if your audience generally sends large volumes of data via the Web, your network must be prepared to handle this without letting it affect voice communications. Customers will not be amused if there is a communication breakdown because your network has not been set up appropriately. Customers don’t care about the complexity of your network; they just care about the way it affects them on a personal level. Not only will these customers lose their confidence, you will lose their business.
  2. Social media is a mode of communication in the contact center, and it’s moving faster than you think. According to a recent survey from Opus Research, 55 percent of respondents are already using social media to communicate with customers. Are you one of those who is staying ahead of the game by adapting to the requirements of your customers? If your company is part of the 45 percent still not in the game, you should know that your competitors probably are. Don’t let your company fall by the wayside because you fear investing in new technology.
  3. Democracy reigns in the enterprise and contact centers. Customers want to have instant access and consistent contact with companies, employees are bringing their own tools to work, and it is IT’s role to maintain order. Different communication modes must be able to work in harmony because the bottom line is that people can no longer tolerate silos and latencies. They want instant gratification, and they want it done their way. Therefore, when you are implementing unified communications technologies in your company, you must first start with an understanding of what your customers – both internal and external – want, and then plan to logically implement those technologies.
  4. Engage your audience: add a social media layer to your communication options. Don’t lose track of the fact that your investment in a unified communications platform is meant to strengthen your engagement with customers and prospects. In order to accomplish this goal, there are a few steps you must follow. First, be sure you have a clear understanding of the benefits of cloud technology so you can gain the most from it. Second, clearly outline the ways that your company will use social media. For instance, will you focus on websites, forums, Facebook, Twitter, or IM? Third, be sure to continue monitoring both your customer interactions and your networks to ensure that customers are getting the most from the engagements. Finally, in order to achieve point number three, invest in a comprehensive, detailed analytics and reporting system that will enable you to get the most out of your investment.
  5. Proper planning and network validation is critical. Changing to a complex – and sometimes significantly more unwieldy – unified communication structure can be intimidating. Increased network complexity gives rise to greater possibilities for error, and as mentioned above, customers will not remain loyal if they experience communication issues.

Companies need assurance that their networks will work as planned so they are confident they can receive the full benefits of their investments. One way to mitigate risk during the transformation period is with an effective validation methodology. Thorough, end-to-end validation processes produce consistent and dependable metrics that can be used to ensure the proper integration of social media channels and confirm that any issues are handled before the system goes live. Catching errors before they affect customers helps organizations gain a competitive advantage.

When implementing a social media strategy, getting it right the first time is key to reaping the desired benefits. Testing during the pre-implementation stage will help you achieve that goal. Once the implementation has been rolled out, it is also important to keep it right with a comprehensive monitoring strategy.

If you get it right and keep it right, not only will you stay at the top of the curve, you will feel more confident in your new implementation and keep your customers coming back for more.

With more than twenty-five years of experience in the network and communications industry where he has been responsible for the creation and delivery of a number of industry-leading products, Bob Hockman serves as director of product marketing at Empirix. In this role, he directs the marketing efforts for the company’s business solutions.

[From Connection Magazine March 2011]

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