Misconceptions about Social Media

By Donna Fluss

I recently met with a group of highly experienced contact center leaders to discuss a variety of hot topics. We engaged in a spirited discussion about how best to handle social media. This is a critical topic today, as few organizations appear to be doing this well. During our conversation, a few alarming organizational misconceptions and examples of mishandlings came up. The following are three of the most serious misconceptions and errors we uncovered:

1) Contact center agents do not have enough knowledge or skills to handle social media interactions. Given that a majority of social media interactions for businesses are service or product-related, what department would be more knowledgeable about these matters than contact centers? Not marketers, who are still claiming responsibility for the social media channel, although they generally do not have the company, product, or operational knowledge to handle a large volume of interactions within specific service levels (response times).

While not all agents in contact center or customer service have the ability to communicate effectively in writing – a skill that is necessary in order to handle social media interactions –  these departments are the only ones that have the training, knowledge, and experience to efficiently and effectively handle a large volume of diverse customer inquiries. A reasonable approach is to set up a separate team of service agents to handle social media interactions. If this is done, however, organizations face the risk of having the treatment and information provided to constituents vary based on the channel of contact. This can be a significant and costly challenge for organizations.

2) All social media interactions are required to be funneled to the department or team set up to handle social media. This means that if a friend posts something to an employee’s wall, they are expected not to respond, but instead to pass it on to the “proper” team. As social media is the newest form of conversation, this is akin to asking your employees not to talk to friends or acquaintances about your business or company.

Since employees are the best advocates for businesses, restricting their ability to discuss their company doesn’t make any sense, even if it seems practical. While a centralized servicing team, such as the contact center, should be responsible for handling or overseeing discussions that would typically fall within their purview, employees should be able to “converse” with friends and continue to advocate for their employers, just as they have in the past.

3) Companies are asking their employees to shut down their personal social media accounts. This is offensive and likely illegal (although I am not a lawyer and I’m not issuing a legal opinion on this topic). Not only should companies not have a right to ask employees to disable their personal accounts to avoid the risk of a “friend” asking about their employer, they shouldn’t want them to. Employees are the best and most effective advocates and marketers for a company’s business.

Many enterprises are intimidated by social media and have no idea how to handle these interactions. As a result, they are ignoring them and taking no action, which is the biggest mistake of all – because social media is not going away. Like it or not, social media is a new and increasingly common form of “conversation,” often taking the form of an interaction between the initiator and the public. It is being used by customers, prospects, and anyone else who feels like writing, and organizations truly do not have any control over what is written about them.

However, organizations can have 100 percent control over how they respond if they decide to take the necessary steps to build an effective social media program. As part of this initiative, employees should be given some straightforward guidelines about how the organization would like to be represented in these public forums.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting and author of The Real-Time Contact Center.

[From Connection Magazine September 2012]

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