Social routing in contact centres
Dave Paulding, regional sales director UK and Middle East at Interactive Intelligence, discusses the changing role of the “customer” in customer service.
Social routing is an emerging trend, a way in which contact centres can more accurately meet the needs of their customers. But how is this different from what we’re doing at the moment? The answer lies in describing the modern day customer.
Consumers, especially the younger demographic, are more empowered today, through the use of technology and social media. When interacting with an organisation about a product or service they increasingly using channels other than the telephone.
Instead, the proliferation of social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, web chat, video chat and other communication methods have seen a decrease in the use of the humble telephone. In addition, this empowerment has created a virtual buying experience online, characterised by more choice, and the availability of product videos, other customer reviews, descriptions, and technical information.
Analyst Gartner has indicated that customers are now in control of their own sales cycle, which will have an effect on how brands market their products. It also has wider implications in that increasingly the control of customer service is swinging away from organisations and shifting towards the empowered consumer.
What this means is that customers expect the same level of functionality, service and interactivity from customer service departments regarding product and service related queries as they receive from buying online. And social routing looks to address this demand and effectively channel the customer to the most appropriate service representative. There is a gap between the buying experience and the support experience, as customer service hasn’t quite caught up to the virtualised buying environment that offers customers a range of options, information and ways in which to buy.
The traditional call centre made use of linear call routing – a customer calls in and is routed to the first available agent. As the omni or multi-channel contact centre developed, routing became more detailed – directed to an agent based on IVR menu, client phone number, language, skills-based, etc but remained linear.
Social routing eliminates the disconnect between the buying experience and the support experience by aligning customer needs with the organisational resources that can best match those requirements.
With social routing consumers will be presented with agent options and will, in effect, select the best, most appropriate customer service representative themselves to answer their query, request for information or complaint.
When interacting with the organisation, either via the website or social media channels, the customer will be presented with a menu of agents detailing the agents’ name, skills and biography, and even photograph. The list will be live and constantly updated with data such as average waiting time. In terms of skills, these can include anything relevant to the organisation and the nature of what they supply, from language to technical know-how. In addition, it can include an agent rating based on reviews from previous customers.
Customers can review agents and select the most appropriate option in an effort to get their query resolved first time.
This kind of routing may also be helpful in the training and development of agents. In much the same way as current customer feedback assists in identifying training gaps, agent reviews can be used for performance reviews, development plans and incentive schemes.
There are possible challenges to social routing in terms of agent privacy, especially in industries such as debt collection or online gambling. From an operational point of view, this new method may impact on queuing, assigning of resources and ensuring an even call distribution. These issues can, however, be overcome.
Social routing is still in the early stages but remains an interesting, beneficial and quickly developing area. Over the last 20 years we have moved beyond the age of information with the connected device and connected supply chain, where those who controlled the flow of information had the power. We are now operating in the age of the customer where the power lies in engaging with the empowered customer and those companies that do that well, will be increasingly more successful that those organisations that don’t.