Before the Internet, “word-of-mouth” allowed a business to create a positive impression about the product or service they were offering. Today, with the dominance of Internet-based social media channels, a consumer’s feedback can be much more influential, as their words can reach an incalculable number of eyes in a shorter space of time than ever before. As a result, the modern call center has had to change its approach, and the modern customer is no longer just a voice heard over the phone. The modern customer tweets, likes, posts and emails – and so must the customer service.
The growing influence of customer opinion became particularly noticeable after the year 2000. As digital natives, the millennial generation was born into a world in which the Internet was accessible by the masses and access to the web continues to grow every year. The ways in which people access the Internet have also changed considerably as the millennial generation approached adulthood. Instead of being restricted to computers and laptops, the Internet can now be accessed by smartphones, tablets and other devices, which millennials learned how to use at an early age.
One of the most defining characteristics of any millennial’s life is immediacy. In a world of overnight YouTube stars, they expect a near immediate response to their issues, and a resolution of those problems soon after. If they do not get what they expect, there's a good chance they will express their dissatisfaction through a social media post as well as other available channels such as email, website requests and phone calls to address their problem. There are a number of other channels outside the control of a business for them to express product or service problem- web forums, Snapchat, Vine and many more.
The Internal Shift
Businesses have been forced to change the way that they respond to their customers’ or clients’ queries. Traditional call centers are spaces in which a client phones in with a query and speaks to one or more representative(s) of the business and, if all goes well, the client hangs up with his or her issue resolved. The contact centers of today have had to shift their focus to include the monitoring of web-based social media platforms. Businesses have had to adjust their customer support to try and minimize negative sentiments expressed by clients or customers on the web.
A 2015 survey by the Northridge Group1 on the state of customer service found that 26% of users will express their issues on social media if they can’t reach a business representative via other channels. One of the downsides for businesses is that it has become more difficult to contain customers’ or clients’ issues before they receive broader attention. The Northridge Group’s report also found that more than 40% of consumers in the USA expect resolutions to their queries within an hour of posting them on social media. According to the report, a third of social media users say that social media response platforms do not meet their expectations, 13% have experienced unsatisfactory issue resolution and 9% were unhappy with follow-up rates.
Paul Stockford, Saddletree Research’s Chief Analyst, has noticed an upturn in the way that contact centers handle queries from different channels. The company’s figures show that 93% of participating contact centers handle emails, and 54% of contact centers handle social media queries – 40% of which utilized Twitter in 2015.
Although there has been widespread recognition by businesses that social media is an important channel for resolving customer or client issues, there are still persisting and growing issues. The follow on effects of negative opinions expressed online do not only affect millennials. Consumers from other generations, who previously had different customer service expectations have also been influenced. Older generations have also come to expect lightning speed responses and immediate resolutions to their queries.
In addition, the permanence of social media presents a continuing problem for businesses. Unresolved and inefficiently resolved problems quickly become public knowledge and form a lasting impression on many potential and current users. Also, the issues expressed on the Internet remain findable unless the user chooses to remove the posting(s) in question.
Often, businesses that are not sufficiently prepared for multi-channel customer queries face additional issues. For example, several employees working on different channels might find themselves working to resolve the same query, or two employees may respond to the same question on two different channels and provide conflicting responses.
Making Sense of Unstructured Data
Businesses need to prioritize the evolution of call centers in order to face the challenges of a multi-channel world and address the way in which millennials and subsequent generations contact businesses. Approximately 80% of the data coming into organizations today is unstructured meaning that someone has to read it to determine the next action. To do this, they need to adopt new tools and train their employees to be familiar with those tools. To be effective, the tools need to bring together customer or client issues from different channels including unstructured social media posts, emails, web queries, calls and data from any other channel the customer might choose to use.
Many tools have been developed to help businesses deal with unstructured social media queries. However, few are designed to handle multiple channels including calls, emails and social media posts. Fewer still are designed specifically for contact centers. Our ITyX Customer Experience Platform does precisely that. It seamlessly integrates multiple channels. This platform provides a solution with meaningful context and usable contact details for each query brought to the business.
Northridge Group. The State of Customer Service Experience 2015. Online