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The Growing Importance of Social Media for Support Organizations

by Donna Fluss and Maureen Rogers, DMG Consulting

Few phenomena have generated as much interest and hype over the last several years as social media, the combination of Web technologies that are used to create consumer-generated (and, increasingly, business-generated) content. Blogs, networking forums like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, reviewing sites like epinions and Trip Advisor, company-created community spaces, YouTube – all are giving consumers a voice. Facebook alone has 400 million active users; nearly 200 million Twitter users post 65 million tweets each day.

While most of what’s happening on the social media front is personal in nature, organizations are finding that it’s important to listen carefully when they become the subject of discussion. Companies must respond both reactively (to prevent or stem a crisis, or the spread of misinformation) and proactively, tapping this emerging channel for feedback on their products and services, to provide support, to discover ideas for innovation, and to forge new bonds with customers.

Contact Center’s Role in Managing Social Media Interactions

From a contact center perspective, however, it has not been entirely clear what should be done with and about the potentially vast reservoir of customer feedback yielded by social media. In a recent DMG Consulting survey (The Winning Formula: A Benchmark Study of Contact Center Workforce Management, May 2010), 230 contact center, enterprise and IT executives, VPs, managers, directors and decision-makers from around the world were asked about social media in their organizations. The results revealed that only 6.5% of contact centers currently have any type of support for social media. Only about one quarter (23.9%) are planning to add such support by 2014. DMG Consulting believes that while many companies are not rapidly embracing social media, they will need to get on board with this new channel, whether they want to or not, because customers expect it. As a result, DMG Consulting predicts that by the end of 2014, more than 45% of contact centers will have integrated some type of social media support – monitoring social networking sites for mentions of a company/product, responding to blog or Twitter posts with an invitation to participate in a survey, incorporating tweets as a means of communicating directly with the contact center, etc.  .

Contact centers are the ideal department in the company to respond to feedback on social networks and community sites, because they are set up and staffed to handle large volumes of interactions across a multitude of channels, in real or near-real time. Contact centers are a natural fit for social networking, although today, most do not actively participate. Nevertheless, the number of companies experimenting with social networking and community sites is increasing daily. Businesses must learn to tap into the power of these networks because through them, they can expand their customer base, improve service, gain additional ways to interact with and respond to customers, and obtain feedback in a more timely and less intrusive manner than with typical Web-based or IVR surveying techniques.

Keeping Social Media Interactions in Perspective

While DMG Consulting believes that social media and social networking will continue to grow in importance as an additional means of communicating with customers, one cautionary note is that organizations need to be careful not to overreact or exaggerate the importance of communications that flow from these media. Social media communications must be monitored and responded to, but some communications may magnify an issue. Given the continuous public availability and viral nature of social media communications, it is human nature to give these communications more weight than those that arrive through traditional surveying and feedback channels. Before changing policies, procedures, or products/services, organizations should make sure that they’re not overreacting to the voice of a lone and uniquely disgruntled customer. Social media offers great insights into the “voice of the customer,” particularly when used in conjunction with other traditional communications channel.


DMG Consulting LLC (www.dmgconsult.com) specializes in customer-focused business strategy, operations, and technology for contact centers. DMG helps end users build differentiated contact centers by increasing operational efficiency, providing outstanding customer experiences, enhancing loyalty, and increasing sales and profits.