Many organisations in the Middle East are not getting their social media outreach right. This is often down to a disconnect within the organisation that leaves contact centre managers feeling side-lined. Nidal Abou-Ltaif, Avaya’s Vice President for Emerging Markets, Middle East and Africa provides some advice on how to avoid this all-too-common scenario.
In most organisations social media is seen as an extension of the marketing and communications function. Therefore, it is not uncommon for marketing departments to create a new Facebook promotion, or even the company’s full social media strategy, without fully consulting the contact centre manager. However it is generally not the marketing department that responds to a customer’s tweets, posts, blogs, messages or comments. This disconnect can result in unhappy customers and angry colleagues if it is not addressed early on.
Customer interaction, in particular customer service, is typically the domain of the contact centre. Yet, far too often the contact centre manager is left in the dark, having to retro-fit the contact centre response to the social media strategy. Most organizations in the Middle East don’t really have a set strategy when it comes to social media, it is usually set by the marketing/communications/PR department with little involvement from the contact centre. And rarely is the strategy set by more than one department. The result of such a disconnect can be very damaging for the company, leading to at best poor agent response to social media enquiries and at worst the company being criticised for its social media effort.
Fortunately this doesn’t have to be the case. With adequate communication and good team-work contact centre managers can ensure the social media strategy fits the contact centre competencies and works well.
Creating a social media strategy and policy that works for both the contact centre and the marketing department is essential. It often makes sense for the marketing director to be the architect of the overall strategy, but they are unlikely to know vital operational details. For example, launching a campaign on a Monday morning – agents’ busiest time – is unwise. Joint planning creates a much higher chance of success.
Equally important is to listen to one another. Only by understanding the outcomes that the sales and marketing team want can you make sure you accurately set their expectations of the contact centre. Proactively tell the marketing department about the social media capability you already have (and haven’t) – don’t wait to be asked.
For a social media campaign, for instance a Facebook promotion, to really work, agents need to be able to quickly and easily identify the leads that come as a result of the campaign so they can respond to them in the right context. In order to do this, agents need to be briefed and appropriate scripts loaded on the system to support any resulting lead generation. In addition the contact centre needs to generate full reports on the campaign. Is this possible in your contact centre at present? Be honest with your marketing colleagues about what your agents can realistically do, how much training is required, what new technology might be needed, which current customer interaction processes needed to be updated – ultimately how long it will take for the social media side of the contact centre to be running at peak performance.
Social media outreach can be expensive. For example customers tweet and post twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Can your current contact centre resource that? If not, what will you need and who will pay for it? Budgets are a key area for up front negotiation.
Keep senior management and the board of directors informed of what is happening with the social media strategy – you want them to be aware of the impact on the contact centre as well as on other parts of the organisation. They also need to know what social media success will look like across the company. Or conversely, the negative impact it can have on perception and even share price if it is not executed properly.
Social media is blurring the edges between sales, marketing, customer service and other corporate departments and many organisations are not prepared for this when they first launch their social media programme. Developing a coherent programme that works well requires inter department collaboration. If done well it can result in valuable customer insights, marketing lift and ultimately improved ROI.