Unifying Social Media Communications

My favorite part of parenting is watching my children grow into wonderful adults. I have three adult children and I am very proud of each of them.

As it is with many families, the three brothers chose different career paths. Their paths also differ from my career choice. I was the engineering type that loved working with ones and zeroes, and I never met a protocol that I didn’t like.

The most like me might be my middle son, Evan (@eprokop1). While he didn’t go the computer science route like I did, as the digital marketing manager for TopRank (an online marketing company), Evan deals with the results of my work with ones and zeroes. He assists companies with their web and social media strategies. He works with some very large enterprises to help them increase their web viewership and to create a positive image across a variety of social media platforms.

Something that Evan and I strongly share is our love of words. Like me, Evan is an avid blogger and writes extensively about his industry. He was recently at a social media conference in San Diego, California and wrote this article for his company’s blog.

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Now, you might wonder what social media has to do with unified communications (UC), but I will venture to say, “a lot.” If you think about it, at the core of social media is the idea of getting a message across to your audience. Those audiences vary depending on the particular platform. As an individual, it might be your Facebook and Instagram friends and followers. As a professional, it could be your LinkedIn connections. Businesses use those same tools, but they are more concerned with likes and shared interests than actual friendships. The point is that these are places where we express words, images, moving pictures, etc. in the hope of getting a reaction.

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The goal of UC is to allow the user to get his or her message across to an audience. It might be a one-on-one phone call or it might involve a large number of people in a multimedia conference. The message might be text, video, human speech, images, documentation, etc. Sound familiar?

In his blog article, Evan writes about social media business objectives in three different ways.

  • Sales – content that generates revenue
  • Savings – content that saves money
  • Sunshine – content that makes your customers feel good

Aren’t those the same goals of unified communications? As a business owner, I would not invest in any UC solution that did not meet those requirements. I need to make my employees more productive which in turn will lead to higher revenues and profits. We live in hard times where every dollar spent needs to be scrutinized. I need higher profits and I need to lower my cost of doing business. Lastly, I want my customers, both internal and external, to feel good about any UC technology that gets deployed. My employees must want to use it and my customers must need to feel that it is an improvement over what I had before.

I addressed the changing face of UC in my article, Will the Real Unified Communications Please Stand Up. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may not be manufactured by traditional communications companies such as Avaya or Unify, but they are UC tools nonetheless. This blurring of the lines makes it imperative that UC and social media strategies align. A company that silos these technologies runs the risk of missing the major benefits of either one.

The millennial generation will continue to redefine the workplace. People like my 27-year-old son, Evan, see the writing on the wall and are embracing the brave new world where these many forms of communications are converging. These are the technologies that are driving the new workforce and customer base. Ignore them at your peril.

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This article originally appeared on Andrew Prokop’s unified communications blog, SIP Adventures, and is reprinted with permission.

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Equipping Reps for Call Resolution

Social media support and self-service options are on the rise, but companies shouldn’t unplug their phone systems just yet.

Today’s consumers expect an exceptional user experience as brands continue to raise the bar for e-commerce service through their online channels.

Still, the contact center remains a vital component in any complete support strategy.

According to BusinessNewsDaily, a Five9 study revealed that 70 percent of American consumers will contact businesses via phone as their primary method of communication.

The right tools for the job
Contact centers are still going strong, but customers today have higher standards for what they consider to be good support over the phone.

Managers can hire the world’s most talented, experienced representatives but still struggle to deliver quality support if they lack adequate customer service technology.

In an age where a great deal of shopping is done online without the help of live agents, contact centers are often the first interactive touch point consumers will have with a brand, making it all the more important to ensure customer satisfaction.

In addition to heightened consumer demands, the stakes have also been raised for e-commerce service, thanks to the widespread use of social media and anonymous review sites.

Related article: It Should be a No-Brainer: Online Customers Want Better Experiences

BusinessNewsDaily pointed out that dissatisfied customers between the ages of 18 and 34 are likely to air out their grievances online, sharing with their networks harsh words that can leave a bad mark on a brand’s reputation. Despite the potentially negative implications of these social activities, the source explained that live call handling is the defining feature of a company’s service.

“Ultimately, it is the contact center agents who have the biggest impact on the customer’s experience,” said Rich Guth, vice president of marketing at Transera, according to the news source. “Contact centers should encourage their agents to deliver a personalized and optimized customer experience. A focus on quality always delivers more rewarding relationships than quantity.”

Mixing the old with the new
To make a lasting impression on customers in the digital era, companies must provide their representatives with more than just a phone.

Contact centers that maximize first call resolution integrate the use of consumer information, extensive knowledge bases and additional services such as co-browsing to guide consumers through online portals.

Managers can also increase productivity by segmenting their staff into specialized roles, allowing them to develop more specific expertise and receive calls that pertain to their niche.

According to BusinessNewsDaily, collecting and organizing relevant customer data is essential in offering an advanced level of service.

“Contact centers collect tons of data from their customers,” Guth said, as reported by the source. “It starts from the time a customer picks up the phone, but information gets scattered throughout the conversation and stored in a disparate system. Together, this data forms historical performances and real-time context to make better, data-driven decisions. These decisions are backed up with months’ and years’ worth of detailed data, not just high-level summaries or snapshots of specific time periods.”

Beware of omni-channel pitfalls
The intersection of applications and information is the new standard in customer service. However, companies must be cautious not to get carried away with implementing more channels than they can effectively manage, Examiner.com recently noted.

Live help technology must be used sparingly to be most effective, and representatives need to have a firm grasp on each channel if customers are to get the best experience possible.

In addition to training agents properly, decision-makers should build their contact center strategies piece by piece rather than layering an overwhelming number of services that will create more problems than they solve.

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This article originally appeared on the LiveLOOK blog, and is reprinted with permission.