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GCN : November 2013
ooner or later --- and sooner is more likely --- government contact centers will need to accommodate social media. Experts note that the majority of people prefer to interact with contact centers by voice, with other channels, such as e-mail and Web self-service sites, still much less popular. So far, social media has barely been a factor. But that will change, and when it does, agencies need to be ready. To make it work on a large scale, agencies will need to coordinate social media-based interactions with their work in other channels. If people ask for assistance through a Facebook page or in a Twitter message, contact center staff should be able to verify that their requests are being processed and then respond through various channels, including voice, said Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director for Nemertes Research. "The goal of the contact center manager it to integrate all pos- sible ways of speaking with the customer," he said."The idea being that, if you put optimization in place here on the network, then you won't have to increase bandwidth for the next four years, instead of in the next year," he said. Although many agencies use social media to push information to the public, most are still learning about its potential role as a two-way channel, according to Tonya Beres, contact center specialist at the General Services Administration, and co-chair of the Government Contact Center Council. But if agencies intend to fully embrace social media, they will need to invest some money in software to help them manage the traf c. Otherwise, things could quickly get out of hand. "Some 80 to 90 percent of what's happening on social media you won't need to respond to directly," said Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst with McGee- Smith Analytics. "You need a rules- based engine to decide which ones require a response." Is social media worth the invest- ment? That depends on two factors: the availability of funding and the expectations of constituents. Chat service is a good example. GSA has found that chat generally results in high customer satisfac- tion --- likely because it provides the ability to "really dig in and probe and (produce) an instantaneous response for the customer," Beres said. But it also is an expensive chan- nel, because it requires direct, on-demand interaction with individu- als. Even if an agency has adequate funding, it needs to consider its customer base. "The Department of Education uses chat to help people with ap- plications for federal nancial aid, and it really is effective for them because they are dealing with a younger audience," said Beres. In contrast, it is less useful for agencies that deal with older con- stituents, who tend to seek more traditional channels such as voice and even walk-in centers, she said. In any case, now that social media has become so popular within agen- cies themselves, they need to gure out where the responsibility lies for the response, said MaryAnn Monroe, director of GSA's contact center services. Does it belong to market- ing, the Website managers, to the contact centers or a combination of all of them? And how will they bring all those resources together? "Those are the things we are tracking within the different agen- cies," said Monroe. Sponsored Report CONTACT CENTERS Social media: A good solution but not a simple one FULL REPORT ONLINE Go to GCN.com/2013ContactCenters Performance hinges on customer service culture Other Contact Centers Report Articles