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The Government says ‘No’ to 0870: could a more social contact centre be the answer?

By Anna Drennan on Aug 20, 2013 1:01:00 PM

This month, the British government released new legislation that will ban the use of premium rate 084 and 087 numbers by next summer. 

As a major revenue stream to offset the often massive costs of running a call centre, this of course heralds a big change for the industry.

It comes at a time where Customer Service is going through somewhat of a cultural revolution, motivated not only by changes in consumer habits such as the uptake of new channels, but by the importance of customer service as a key differentiator in a crowded, recession-ridden marketplace. The contact centre has been caught in a hard place between pressures to deliver a better customer experience, and to do it at the lowest possible cost. Procedural efficiencies and quality training battle it out for prominence. But changes such as this legislation could provide the extra impetus needed to establish a new kind of experience of the contact centre.

 Arguments for a new model of customer service have typically been driven by demand for a better customer experience. But the immediate pressure of these changes might renew the cause for a more social approach to customer care. Ofcom estimates that 30,000 companies use premium-rate numbers. And estimates show that consumers spend nearly £2 billion a year on calls to premium rate numbers. In 2009, they accounted for around 12% of the total call traffic volume in the UK, and generated 10% of the total revenue. Customer service centres will need to look for other means to serve customers to avoid depleting resources even further. But if brands can’t reassure customers that alternative channels can offer them the same level of service as they’re used to over the phone, it will be struggle to turn them to more cost-effective channels.

Here are 3 reasons why contact centres should promote social media as a customer service channel:

Social customer service can stop customers from picking up the phone

Clickfox estimates that picking up a customer call costs businesses an average of $15 every time, and that’s before you strip away the cost offset by premium rate lines. Furthermore, they found that over 40% of unresolved complaints on social media result in phone calls. Social media offers a channel where agents can handle contacts much more efficiently than through traditional routes; in fact Gartner predicts that agents can handle 4-8 times as many contacts via platforms like Facebook and Twitter than over the phone. This gives these agents a much greater reach for their time, and that’s before you count the effects of providing public answers which can be easily found by other customers with the same problem.

Consumers need confidence that brands are listening.

A recent NM Incite Survey found that 51% of social care users actively engage with brands several times per month, with 9% engaging on a daily basis. Social media isn’t the most popular medium for customer service yet, but it’s certainly growing fast. Despite this, only 36% of consumers that make customer service enquiries via social media report having their issue solved quickly and effectively. Stronger confidence in businesses to handle social media as a serious service channel could be instrumental for businesses who are looking to deal with higher volumes over this one-to-many channel. And companies that successfully invite customer feedback over social media do experience surges in volume as these channels become more attractive and reliable for customers. Although many contact centres have so far feared encouraging such a surge, the prospect of greater pressures to offer excellence while reducing costs may cause them to reconsider opening up the social route.

Social media makes rising stars of forward-thinking contact centres

Reducing costs will inevitably be important over the coming months, but this change speaks to a much more significant shift. People expect a higher level of service, and new legislation only reflects consumers’ resistance to their needs being handled as a cost centre. Smart businesses will look to develop their contact centres as a valuable hub for better customer experiences. Social customer service is not only a fast and desirable contact channel conducted on the consumer’s terms, but engagement across these channels can unlock vast amounts of data. Consumers are sharing the information that decision makers crave more readily on channels like Facebook and Twitter than anywhere else. The smart contact centre manager will make sure they are at the centre of this movement, to prove at the executive level why a social approach to customer care holds real business value. 

What is your experience of social media in the contact centre? Do you think businesses can create an infrastructure for social customer service to cut costs, deliver a better experience, or both? Share your thoughts in the comments below or tweet @conversocial.

Topics: Customer Service

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