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The modern consumer wants to move seamlessly across different platforms, presenting a new set of challenges for contact centres, writes Robert McLuhan.
It has been a decade since digital channels turned call centres into multichannel contact centres. Now a different transformation is under way, as companies grapple with yet another channel for customer interaction: social-media networks. However, there are signs that this challenge will not be straightforward.
A few big brands - among them Virgin Media, Vodafone and Aviva - have taken the bull by the horns, setting up small teams to respond promptly to communications via Twitter and Facebook. Asda has a similar response team in place, and Tesco recently implemented technology from Conversocial that enables call-centre staff to respond directly to customers via social media. However, many businesses are said still to be hanging back, uncertain about what action to take.
No one doubts social media's obvious attractions as a customer-service channel.
After all, why hang around on the phone waiting to speak to a customer-service operator, when a quick tweet could make them come to you?
Singer Lily Allen received instant attention from her telecoms provider when she tweeted about the problems she had been having, and broadcaster Andrew Neil found it more convenient to post on Twitter when an airport lost his luggage. When consumers can get an instant response from celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, they are demanding the same immediacy from brands.
For the moment, the need to respond to complaints on Twitter applies most obviously to the youngest demographic: a recent survey by global contact-centre provider Sitel found that 15% of 16- to 24-year-olds preferred to contact companies via social media than any other method Asked what could be done to improve the customer experience, 17% in this age group said 'respond quickly when I ask a question on Twitter'.
These are not high numbers, but they have the potential to grow exponentially, and businesses …