SiemensIt’s about time! I’m very happy to write today’s post because I think it marks a distinct step forward for modern business. It’s no secret that the online world has gone social (if it were, I would not be writing this every week). While people everywhere pull out their smartphones to tweet about something or check their Facebook, the corporate realm of customer service has largely neglected social media.

That is about to change, now that Siemens has become the first to offer a package that will allow service centers to integrate social media and manage it effectively. Koa Beck, an editorial assistant for CRM Magazine, explains:

Siemens Enterprise Communications, a provider of end-to-end enterprise communications announced the release of OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integrations. This integration service solution allows companies to merge both public and corporate social media tools into enterprise customer contact centers, unified communications, and collaboration (UCC) solutions.

In short, social media is coming to corporate call centers. I’ll say it again — finally! As the social web evolves, people are becoming much more adamant about interacting with brands on the channels they choose. As this evolution occurs, we are seeing the classic customer service call center become progressively more outdated.

One good example of this comes from my own behavior. While I am normally big on shopping local, one thing has made me even more so over the last year or two — the local, small businesses are the ones on Twitter and Facebook. I can get the daily specials from my favorite restaurant. I can get a fast response to questions and problems. I can find out what new flavors my local ice-cream man is carrying or find out the current location of a food truck I’m fond of. In short, I get the immediacy of social connectivity along with the help usually associated with a room full of people wearing telephone headsets. Most importantly, it is convenient. The corporate call center is in desperate need of this sort of tool, as well as the other related ones that I am sure will follow.

Blair Pleasant, President and Principle Analyst of COMMFushion LLC, brings us statistics that support my assertion that the time is now ripe for this (via UCS Strategies):

It’s clear that organizations need to start integrating social media channels into their contact center and customer care strategies. Siemens commissioned research that found that 70% of consumers want to interact by social media, but only 30% of companies are ready for it in terms of strategies, policies, and processes. The study showed that:

  • 80% of survey respondents believe that businesses should review social media sites to see what people are saying about them
  • 70% of consumers surveyed want to be able to leverage social media sites to see real-time availability of company experts in technical support, billing, etc.
  • 58% of consumers surveyed feel that regular communication with businesses via social networking sites improves their loyalty to that business.

It’s all about real time these days. Access to support and expertise is expected to have picked up the pace along with the business markets. I just had an instance of that earlier today. I tweeted about a feature I’d like to see, Eventbrite Implement, and forgot about it. Two hours later, I received a message from the company saying that it is in the works for the next update. That is the way to do it.

Those of you familiar with my writing are aware of my oft used analogy comparing social media to the telephone. In my opinion, social media is the natural successor as the platform for conversation. In addition, most of the basic company rules covering employee/customer interactions on the telephone cover most of the points needed for those same employees to use the company social media.

Pleasant gives us an example of how the new Siemans product will work:

The OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integration for Contact Centers incorporates real time information from Twitter to help companies monitor, analyze, route, and report on tweets about their company and products. Using OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integration, tweets can be analyzed based on keywords and/or hashtags, using a variety of monitoring services for social media. The tweet is routed to the most appropriate agent using OpenScape Contact Center’s skills-based routing engine; social media becomes another skill that is part of the agents’ skills routing profile. The agent receives the interaction information on their agent desktop screen, and the social media interaction can be personalized by providing the agent with information about the customer based on contact information from Linked In, their Twitter history, and location information from Google Latitude, for example. Going the next step, since these interactions are handled by contact center, they can be tracked and reported on, just like other contact center interactions.

While I cannot give any firsthand review of OpenScape, I do applaud its debut. This is a major step towards harnessing the service opportunities presented by social media, something that stands to benefit any brand.

What do you think: Would you like to be able to get support over Twitter or Facebook? How about being able to voice complaints through those channels?

Source: “Siemens Fuses Social Media and Unified Communications,” UCS Strategies, 12/01/10
Source: “Siemens Enterprise Communications to Unite Social Media and Contact Centers,” destination CRM, 11/30/10
Image of Siemens logo is used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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