Redefining the Call Center in a Web 2.0 World

Social media blurs the lines between marketing and customer care. The people using social platforms to network with each other want a seamless experience when they connect with companies. They want one stop shopping and service where their marketing, order, and service questions can be answered in a single visit.

Finding an internal home for social media presents a challenge for companies with a silo departmental structure. Marketing and public relations departments want to control the messaging and branding, but the team members don’t have the product or service knowledge to answer questions. Even if they are working with the service team, there is a delay between the time the question is asked and receiving a response.

Web 2.0, the interactive version of online marketing, requires an integrated approach. Marketing and customer care have to work together to provide the experience customers want. The best way to do this varies by company, but the simplest approach is to allow marketing to handle the marketing side and customer care to manage everything else.

This approach is very similar to managing a direct mail campaign. The marketing department manages the outgoing messages and customer care handles the incoming calls and orders. It makes sense to let the people who know the most about the products, services, and individual customers respond to the queries and complaints.

National Allergy Supply is successfully challenging conventional social media wisdom that marketing should manage all messaging. The call center posts all of the messages on its Facebook fan page. Operations manager Kathryn Teague says the company opted for a soft entry to the interactive marketing world to evaluate the effectiveness without a heavy investment. People are invited to join them on Facebook with a banner at the bottom of its website home page and via the newsletter.

Teague notes: “We are very pleased with the responsiveness of our community to date. It is small, but interactive. People ask questions, share experiences, and we have seen first-time customers move from Facebook into our sales cycle. When our customer service representatives answer the questions, we know that our customers and prospects are getting accurate answers very quickly.”

Adding social media responsibility to the call center improves responsiveness without increasing calls. Most companies find that the responses can be managed between calls without adding staff. The key is choosing the right people and tools. The team members need solid knowledge of the products, services, and policies along with good communication skills and monitoring tools. With the right combination, monitoring and responding is a simple process.

Here are some tips to getting started:

– Work with the marketing team to find out where customers and prospects are most likely to be active.
– Create a branded presence on the appropriate platforms.
– Choose the people and tools best suited for interacting with your community.
– Invite customers and prospects to connect with you online.
– Schedule specific times to check in to insure no messages are missed.
– Monitor the time spent on social media and any effect it has on incoming calls.

Debra Ellis is the founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting (, which specializes in improving customer acquisitionand retention using marketing, analytics, service, and strategic planning.