By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.
Reactions to social media are varied. Some people ignore it, some embrace it, and some tolerate it. Initially used as platforms for casual interpersonal interaction (that is, non-business), the many variations of social media are increasingly being tapped for enterprise communication. This includes two types of interactions, commonly known as business-to-consumer (in our case, healthcare provider to patient) and business-to-business (healthcare provider to vendor) contacts. For call centers, social media opportunities fall into three categories.
Enhancing Operations: Social media offers the possibility to more effectively communicate with staff, recruit agents, and support a distributed workforce. Younger employees, who more typically embrace social media, especially appreciate these options.
Serving Your Organization: Just as every viable organization has a Website, the expectation increasingly exists for an official blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, and so forth. While certain departments, such as marketing or promotions, will take the lead in establishing and directing these efforts, call centers are in a unique position to provide ongoing front-live support on a day-to-day basis. Even if marketing continually monitors and responds to social media posts, questions, and criticisms during normal business hours, who does this outside of business hours – the time when consumers are more active on social platforms?
Connecting with Patients and Customers: The primary purpose of call centers is communicating with patients and customers. Consider some of these opportunities:
Email and Chat: These items both precede social media and also provide an entry point to it. Everything you do with phone calls, you must apply to email. Answer email, screen email, route email, add value to email, prioritize email, and escalate email.
With chat, which is increasingly prevalent on leading Websites, you can do the same things you currently do for the phone communications: answer questions, assist with site navigation, and (if your sites sells products) keep visitors from abandoning their shopping cart.
Facebook: Making a Facebook page is easy. However, to be of use, relevant content needs to be posted and, more importantly, the people who “like” you deserve interaction. When customer service issues, questions, or complaints surface on Facebook, they warrant a quick response – before others chime in with their perspectives, which are often not helpful, or the post goes viral.
Similarly, if an inquiry materializes, it warrants a speedy reaction. Just be sure to follow social media etiquette. Doing sales incorrectly in social media can be an unpleasant, and even damaging, experience.
Blog Comments: Most blogs allow readers to respond to posts. However, to protect against spam, these comments need review and approval beforehand or subsequent screening afterwards. This is something that a call center can easily do, especially since approval notifications can arrive via email. Additionally, a response to the comment is sometimes appropriate, allowing a dialogue to take place, be it within the blog’s comment section or via another means.
Twitter: Twitter is both a broadcast medium and a one-to-one communications channel. Replying to tweets and sending direct messages are great customer service opportunities, for which the call center is ideally suited.
Media Alerts: Automated services can scan cyberspace for occurrences of specific words or phrases, such as a company’s name, a trademark, or an individual’s name. Although helpful, this information generally needs review and filtering before it becomes of practical use. A call center can receive these alerts, cull out the mismatches, and then process the true matches as appropriate.
More Opportunities: These are just a few ideas. As you investigate social media, you will assuredly come up with additional service solutions. Moreover, consider other platforms, such as LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.
Once you take these steps, your call center will become a contact center.
[From the December 2012/January 2013 issue of AnswerStat magazine]