Five Reasons to Choose a Multichannel Product for Social Media Customer Service
Keith McFarlane, CTO, Platform and Telephony, LiveOps Keith McFarlane, CTO, Platform and Telephony, LiveOps

Social media is disrupting customer care in ways that are both profound and difficult to predict. Not only do contact centers need to effectively manage voice, email, SMS, and chat traffic, they’ve also got to deal with tweets, wall posts, likes, dislikes, pins, blog comments, etc. This is an ever-expanding list of social media message types that grow in volume by the day. In short, the contact center is moving from merely chaotic to completely insane.

Until recently, contact center owners have had no choice but to deploy new social media monitoring systems that have no relationship with existing (and already disparate) contact services. Due to this, contact centers are becoming unmanageably complex, and customer support agents are being pigeonholed into unnatural specialties based on media channel type.

Fortunately, new technology solutions are emerging to address these problems. If you are in the market for new contact center technology, you should consider a vendor that supports all of the contact channels you need now and plans to expand coverage of new channels as they emerge. There are many reasons for this, and I’ll cover five of them here.

1) Support for Cross-channel Pivot Scenarios

Detecting social media activity related to your brand is important, but it’s only the first step; that initial @reply or direct message may not be enough to address the customer’s issue. You will need the ability to “pivot” from public forums like Twitter and Facebook to more private, interactive channels like voice or email. For example, you might want to provide a link in your direct message that generates a voice callback from a contact center agent, who then can directly address the problem surfaced in the original tweet.

Implementing the channel pivot capability using several disparate customer contact systems (one for voice, one for social media, etc.) can be incredibly challenging, but these scenarios are supported very naturally in an integrated customer engagement environment.

2) Keeping Up With Changes in the Social Media Landscape

Twitter and Facebook support are obvious requirements of any contact center solution now, but several years ago this wasn’t the case. Pinterest went from an unknown service to the 4th largest social network within months. Conversely, MySpace, the preeminent social network prior to the Facebook explosion, has gradually settled into near-irrelevance.

Social networks emerge, grow, contract, and explode in unpredictable ways; because of this, contact centers need to align themselves with innovative vendors that are focused on the ever-shifting tides of the social media waters. At LiveOps, we have developed a social media connector architecture that allows us to quickly connect to new social networks and use new capabilities of existing social media networks. For example, we recently added the ability to route new tweets to agents based on location data.

3) Providing a Unified Agent Experience

There’s no good reason that a contact center agent should need to use more than one desktop tool to service customers across different contact channels. In fact, switching between applications and browser windows can seriously impact an agent’s effectiveness. Because of this, convergence of desktop applications is often a high-priority IT goal.

Contact center technologies that support multiple contact channels have the opportunity to provide a consistent, rational user experience across those channels. In the case of LiveOps, contacts from multiple channels are displayed and manipulated using the same basic visual tools, with some special channel-specific tools displayed as appropriate (for example, ability to choose @reply vs. direct message when responding to a tweet). Also, agents can decide to service the customer using the original contact channel, or pivot to a more appropriate channel for the context.

4) Reporting Across All Engagement Channels

Historical reporting and real-time monitoring are among the most important functions of any contact center solution. Unfortunately, these reporting and monitoring needs are very difficult to satisfy in a multi-vendor environment. At the most basic level, matching customer and interaction records makes any data rationalization project problematic and often expensive, involving weeks or months of consultant time.

This is one area in which multichannel solutions shine brightest. Since all customer contacts are managed by the same platform, data is consistent by default. There is no need to spend time and money merging cross-channel interactions or customer records. With LiveOps, an agent or supervisor can see a customer’s cross-channel contact history instantly in a contact center dashboard, enabling a more engaged, effective customer experience.

5) Cross-channel Application Development

For every new technology a contact center implements, IT developers and consultants must take a new programming interface into account. Implementing voice call, email, and Twitter processing separately forces the IT application developer to write applications using three different APIs. This leads to higher development costs and longer time to deployment.

Compare this to a multichannel vendor with a single, consistent API. While developing a new CTI-driven application, for example, the application developer is also learning elements of the API that will be applied when integrating with the Twitter or chat channels. The contact center IT staff can build up knowledge of a single platform and apply it many times over.

As you evaluate vendors for your next social media contact center project, be sure to ask the question: “How can your product make my life easier?” If the answer doesn’t include simplification through multichannel support, you should really keep looking.