Social Media Mission Control, The Contact Center Must Evolve #SocialSupport

Rise of Social Commerce, an Altimeter Conference Left: Gatorade’s (Pepsico) Social Media Mission Control Center in Chicago listens and supports customers wherever they are in their lives. (Video, WSJ)

Customers have been blessed –and cursed– by call centers where customers call into customer support phone lines when they have woes to solve. Now, expect similar strategies to now use Social CRM technologies (read the report) to first listen to customers where they already are, and respond in real time.  In fact we know of Gatorade being the first to launch their Mission Control center (see video below) and Dell’s head of Social Media, Manish Mehta, announced at our conference last week they are going to launch the Dell Social Media Mission Control center at their HQ.

How the Contact Center Evolves: Traditional to Social Media
Social media is not just a ‘new channel’ where existing processes are applied, there are significant changes required in approach or risk public customer backlash, support teams must be aware o f the following changes:

  1. Traditional Channels vs Social Channels: Rather than use traditional communication channels like phone, web, online chat, and email, Social Media support centers will reach customers where they already are –in social networks where they talk to each other.
  2. Inbound vs Outbound: Rather than waiting for customers to contact the contact center on phone support, web, or online chat, they are being proactive by listening to customers and responding to them in their own native social channels.  Expect savvy brands to anticipate customers needs by using Social CRM databases to find trends, locate issues before they surface, then contacting customers before their issue surfaces.
  3. Post Issue vs Real Time Response: Call centers often occur once a customer has had a negative issue, and a frazzled or frustrated customer calls in.  The goal of Social Support is for support agents to contact customers before they call the support center, reducing expensive high touchpoints.
  4. Incident Resolution Scripts vs Lifestyle Content: Call centers have one one primary mission and often a secondary: to solve customer woes and get them off the phone as quickly as possible to keep costs low, or flip to upsell opportunities.  The contact agents script has been carefully designed to solve customer issues quickly and efficiently, yet, social media support may involve discussions and true dialog that build relationships with the customers beyond product support.  Expect lifestyle content, news, industry happpenings, and even marketing deals to emerge in the same social channels to offer more value for customers.
  5. One-off Incidental Relationships vs Long Term Relationships: Contact center interactions often are short term, with different staff interacting with different customers with no long-term relationship building.  In social media support, a handful of the same folks may participate in the social support efforts with their public persona appearing, this building a known relationship as a human with customers.  See how regulated Wells Fargo does it right with their Ask Wells Fargo Twitter help account.
  6. Customer Support Skills vs Social Media Skills:  While we’ve already seen a traditional skillset emerge for contact centers, expect a new skill set will be required to learn: brand monitoring tools, social media workflow, listening tools, social CRM training.  Beyond the tools, they’ll have to learn conversational marketing, conversational support, and have a high degree of gut feeling to determine if an incident will need to be responded to.  Furthermore, they’ll need to quickly ascertain the social influence of customers, as that will impact the triage process, that’s right, certain customers with more Twitter followers will receive priority treatment over others.

The Future: While Strategy Remains Constant, Expect Resurgence of Vendors and Measurement This isn’t a revolution but instead evolution, in fact both types of centers will focus on issue resolution and customer satisfaction rates.  Both will have dedicated teams.Voices from customers cascade into social channels, and in both cases customers will likely share their experiences to their friends in social channels. Expect that contact centers in India and Philippines to quickly gain steam in this area, cut deals with one of the 145 brand monitoring companies, and offer these pilot programs to their clients.  Lastly, expect that studies emerge that show the cost savings by heading off customer complaints early and responding to them before an incident goes ‘viral’ or reduction in low cost social channels vs higher cost call channels emerge.

Update Dec 11: Although Dell gave me an invite to come to the grand opening, I was unable to attend due to travel, they’ve now launched their Social Media Listening Command Center, see above.

Update: I kicked off a discussion in the growing Social CRM Pioneers Google Group –you’ll find the front line practitioners in here.