Q

Contact center social will (slowly) become norm

In this expert response, find some ways contact centers are using social media channels to manage customer contact volume.

How are contact centers handling Facebook and Twitter channels when they are forecasting customer contact volume? Is it hard to add contact center social media to the mix?

Formal adoption of workforce management (WFM) for social media is slower than generally believed, and enterprises are confused about how best to manage or oversee these new channels. Few organizations have a formal customer service or contact center social media group. For those that do, it often involves one or two people who split their time between handling their normal activities and checking to see if there are any social media interactions to address. In many organizations, social media interactions are handled by the marketing department, which is often not even aware that there is WFM software available to help them forecast contact volume and schedule staff to handle social media feedback.

Last November, DMG published the results of a worldwide benchmark study of the impact of social media on customer service. The study found that 67.4% of organizations are using social media. However, when participants were asked, “How does your organization forecast social media volumes and schedule staff resources to handle the forecasted volumes,” the No. 1 answer was that they did not forecast (41.5%). The second most common answer was that they performed manual forecasting using spreadsheets (26.4%). Seventeen percent of respondents indicated that they were using third-party workforce management software to determine the correct number of resources required to ensure that social media interactions were handled within a set service level. Others (7.5%) indicated that staffing of social media channels was addressed based on their manager’s “gut feel,” and 3.8% of respondents indicated that forecasting was done with third-party social media listening or management tools.

Once an organization decides to build a formal social media strategy and program and gets beyond the pilot phase, it needs a variety of technologies and applications to support the channels. Workforce management software is needed to forecast incoming volume by medium and determine the right staffing level to ensure responses to traffic from each channel within specified service levels on a half-hourly basis. The timeliness requirements for social media are different from those of other channels and require a technology that has been optimized to handle these types of interactions.

WFM systems are just beginning to be used to handle social media interactions. Despite the vendors’ claims, few do a great job addressing social media, as it is new for them. Depending on the vendor, some systems use either deferred or multi-session immediate algorithms and others schedule social media tasks as a project or block of time.

While the demand for WFM technologies to address social media is small today, it is expected to increase. Within a few years, after marketing tires of handling social media inquiries, the responsibility will be shifted to the customer service group or contact center, as has already happened with the handling of emails. It will be necessary for customer service departments to handle these inquiries as productively as possible, and WFM will become a requirement.

This was first published in February 2012

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