Tuesday, January 19, 2010

An Opinion on Social Media and the Contact Center

An interview with Rich Marcia, marketing director for Coordinated Systems, Inc.

Q. How do you use social networks as part of your corporate communications and customer service initiatives?
A. I’m experimenting in social media where there exists clear purposes: for example, Twitter, to deliver quick updates to our followers; LinkedIn, to extend an open hand to potential business partners and customers who may want to reach us via referral; and our blog, which serves the dual purpose of replacing our online newsletter and managing our readership. More “leaps of faith” for the B2B marketer, such as Facebook, Mobile, etc., are a bit more risky. I’ll be looking more into them in 2010, and it’s possible we may dive deep there, but it’s more likely we’ll just be testing the waters.

Q. How can contact centers utilize social networks to increase sales, productivity and operations?
A. That’s a great question. Many companies now need to hire and train “social ambassadors” who search, read and contact people who may be expressing opinions about their companies or brands in social media. Companies, I believe, will eventually cross-train contact center employees to do this. If a Facebook fan contacts you on your fan page, that’s not much different than a prospective customer reaching out to you on your website. Contact center employees can be trained to handle those types of inquiries. It will, however, require a different skill set to professionally “manage” a public relations “incident” where someone on Twitter complains about your company or brand. The “social ambassador” will have to reach out and address the issue at hand.

Q. What social networks are recommended for business purposes?
A. For business purposes, almost all business people can benefit by being on LinkedIn. Referrals are the best forms of leads, job opportunities, partnerships, etc. Twitter is also useful as a cog in your content machine. Twitter can direct people to your blog, which directs people to your website. Throw your LinkedIn profile in there and you’ve exponentially increased your online visibility and the ways of which people can contact you.

Q. How should businesses manage employee usage of social networks?
A. I believe to some extent employee usage of social media should be encouraged – in that they should be evangelists for their companies. They should care what is being said on the net about their company. They should want to defend certain criticisms and investigate others. They should post news and share excitement about their company. Management can still monitor usage and enforce the same rules as in regards to personal calls or web surfing. In the same regard, managers and business owners can’t simply expect all employees to be organically evangelistic – the employees need to be nurtured and marketed to as well. For a product or company to be mentioned in a truly authentic manner, those doing the chattering have to truly love the product or company.

Q. What are some of the main benefits of using social networks?
A. Personally, I’ve seen cancer survivors discover and connect with other survivors on Facebook. They’ve exchanged tips, shared news and made new friendships. I’ve also seen people “connect” with neighbors from communities they haven’t actually moved into yet. Media such as music, video, websites and such are shared amongst your trusted connections, and thus immediately given some degree of legitimacy. Of course, as with anything, there are a list of “cons” to go along with the “pros”. Overall, I’d say the “pros” are winning out.
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