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Should Contact Centers Handle Social Media Transactions?

I know I should wait until the end of this column to give the answer. I should build an argument, and then present the punch line. Instead, I am going to give a one-word answer and explain why there are no viable alternatives. The answer is clear, particularly for organizations that generate a large volume of social media discussions.

The answer is ……..YES!!!….. Contact centers (or, customer service departments) should be the group primarily responsible for handling social media interactions; not because all discussions are service-related (although a large percentage are), but because the contact center is the only department in most organizations capable of managing large volumes of interactions on a timely basis. While there are very significant differences between social media interactions and phone calls (or even emails), there are also striking similarities, including:

  1. The volume of interactions is high and fluctuates
  2. The interactions have to be handled in real time (or near-real time)
  3. Interactions should be handled within a pre-defined service level in order to preserve the opportunity to make a positive impact or favorably influence the outcome and market perception
  4. Topics can be about anything the company does
  5. The interaction volume drives the need for a staff that is dedicated to the function
  6. Interactions should be handled by well-trained employees who are familiar with the company’s products, services, policies and are effective communicators
  7. There must be a way to route ongoing discussions back to the same agent or representative
  8. All interactions should be logged, tracked and tied together to understand the entire “customer journey”
  9. The feedback should be analyzed, and trends identified and communicated throughout the organization
  10. There needs to be an established process for communicating issues on a timely basis throughout the company
  11. Answers provided by the social media team must be consistent with answers provided by the contact center/customer service team
  12. Quality assurance should be performed on these interactions to ensure that responses are accurate and contribute to building the brand
  13. It is essential to take advantage of the right technology and tools

This list could go on and on, but I think the point is clear. Marketing departments that want to “own” the social media channel, because they rightfully see it as a way to build their brand, should take a close look at these requirements and decide if they have the knowledge, skills and resources to handle the job. While there may be one or two exceptions, they generally don’t have what it takes, nor should they be expected to, as marketing is responsible for strategically building and managing the brand, not responding to every customer interaction. Instead of taking on a new task (or retaining one) that has already overwhelmed many marketing groups, they should work closely with their contact center/customer service team to train them to build their company’s social media persona. What I am proposing is a true partnership between marketing and customer service/contact center departments, something that will benefit customers and the enterprise.

In a recently published DMG Consulting benchmark report that analyzed the impact of social media on customer service organizations, I wrote: “In the near future, all organizations will have to address social media. It will become the second most important servicing channel, whether companies are ready for it or not, because it is a very comfortable way for a growing percentage of the population to communicate.” Phone calls are not going away anytime soon, but social media interactions are rapidly picking up momentum. DMG recommends that you prepare for this trend by building (or enhancing) your enterprise social media strategy so that it properly addresses the servicing challenge. Social media is about engagement, and this requires you to meet your customers/prospects/public in their channel of choice and in their desired time frame. Too many companies have already seen that this is easier said than done. DMG recommends that you build a social media servicing infrastructure before your inaction and inability to effectively respond to the needs of your customers result in a social media “fail”.


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Ask the Experts

What are the most common “vital few” key performance indicators (KPIs) that I should use for my technical support center?

Technical support centers need accurate metrics and KPIs to consistently measure the performance of their department and each employee. The data from these metrics must be accurate, timely and actionable so that they can be used to identify issues and improve the performance of the department on an ongoing basis. DMG recommends that companies measure a small number of KPIs that address customer experience, productivity, quality, and cost. The KPIs to start with are:

  1. Transaction volumes (calls, emails, IM/chats, collaboration sessions, etc.)
  2. Basic call detail report – average talk time (ATT), average wait time (AWT), average hold time (AHT), abandonment rates, transfers, holds
  3. First contact resolution (FCR) rate
  4. Number of cases opened and closed
  5. Aging report
  6. Escalations
  7. Dispatch requests
  8. Customer satisfaction scores
  9. Quality assurance scores
  10. Training by employee
  11. Call trends
  12. Average cost per call and for each type of inquiry

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at