One of the key issues that are emerging with the rise of social media as a customer interaction tool is who should track, analyze and respond to what is being said on these sites.
Here's why: social media is media. No different than print, radio, TV and blogs like this one. Media is mass and public-facing. That feature coupled with the deliberate anonymity of most commentators on social sites makes it unique as a channel; it is not one-to-one like calls, e-mails and chat sessions.
Using media requires exceptional communications skills including listening and reading and what to listen and read for, asking key questions and responding quickly and effectively with statements that accurately reflect the organizations' branding, policies and positions. Corporate communications and public relations professionals have these skills along with journalists and lawyers.
In contrast, most contact center agents tend not to have the comparable training or skills. Their writing abilities may not be up to public communications standards.
There is a certain leeway granted by customers, employers and the courts when it comes to what is said in individual interactions. There is none in the media. You survive or hang by your words. Reputations can be made or blown with the slip of a tongue or finger. The one saving grace with social media is, like e-mail and SMS, text-based, which means there is a short window i.e. buffering to get the right answers, but those replies must be publicly defensible.
Is there a role for contact centers in social media? Yes, but under strictly controlled circumstances. Here are two scenarios worth investigating:
* General contact center agents can triage social channel comments i.e. move them from the public to the private spheres based on well-scripted protocols. If commentators have specific complaints or have suggestions agents can intervene and ask them to contact the companies directly or explain how to reach out to them to address these issues. This leaves the heavy duty brand management/responses to the PR experts. It also puts people in the put-up or shut-up 'I'd be happy to discuss this privately' position
* Small, specialized (and presumably well-paid) and highly-trained teams to handle social interactions
At the very least contact center agents should have ready access to what customers are saying about their companies on social media sites in case they get calls or e-mails about these issues. And be provided with heavily scripted responses to ensure consistent corporate messages.