For many years small and medium-sized businesses have used contact centers to help extend their business hours so they can always be available to their customers.  But, as you can read in the article below, all businesses need to look at how to extend their business hours, and all the mediums they are available on for their customers.

This is where a good BPO Contact Center support company can come in.  Most of the leading Contact Centers now are supporting all the traditional communication channels and the new ones like, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc…  This way instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with your internal support team, you can use the experience that these contact centers already have to expand your service abilities.Now before you jump in feet first and outsource all of this there are a few pieces of advice I would offer:

1. Just because a company says they do social media monitoring and response, does not mean they actually do it.  The best test is to tweet or Facebook a post mentioning them, and ask a question.  If you do not see a quick response (1 hour or less) they are not the company for you.

2. Ask for the hiring profile for social media based support agents upfront.  If the center is really in the space this is something they should be able to send over right away.  If you hear hesitation or there is a big delay (over 1 business day) then count this as a red flag.  Also, read over the hiring profile very carefully and look for these key items:

– Typing speed at or above 75 WPM

– Grammar and Spelling proficiency testing at or above a 95% accuracy requirement

– Blogging or Social Media experience

– Journalism experience (a plus)

These items make up a great foundation for a support agent who will not be supporting any or very little live call volume.  Remember a phone agent can not be a non-live agent 99% of the time.

3. Check the http://klout.com/#/SalesKingOnline score for the company.  This is a great gauge for how involved and influential the company is via social media.  Be aware not all companies are required to report to this website, so take this information for what it is worth.  I have provided you with my personal Klout score so you can see how it works.

In summary, just remember a diverse customer experience program is no longer a nice thing to have, it is required to be in business.  But, to do this you must have the buy in from your entire organization, ESPECIALLY YOUR LEADERSHIP!!  With out this you are never going to get the results that a completely diverse customer experience program can offer your business.  This will mainly be done by leadership continuing to view customer experience as a 100% cost center, rather than the revenue protector and builder it really is.

Photo credit: Mira Hartford

Every busi­ness has cus­tomers. Well, at least every suc­cess­ful busi­ness. If some­one walked into your store to ask you a ques­tion, would you tell them that you just didn’t have time to talk to them?

If you want to pro­vide great cus­tomer ser­vice, the first thing that you should know is that it’s no longer good enough to answer ques­tions in con­ven­tional chan­nels (email and phone, or in per­son) or at con­ven­tional times (dur­ing work hours, per­haps on week­ends.) Twit­ter in par­tic­u­lar is a chan­nel for cus­tomer response that’s changed the expec­ta­tions of cus­tomer ser­vice most dra­mat­i­cally, and for­ever. Your cus­tomers talk to you on Twit­ter because they feel it’s an imme­di­ate con­nec­tion to the peo­ple in your com­pany who can solve their problem.

Fine. What does that mean? First of all, it means that the expec­ta­tions for the time­li­ness and breadth of your cus­tomer ser­vice have become head­line dri­ven. Can you answer the cus­tomer, respond in the appro­pri­ate tone, and/or redi­rect the issue with valu­able con­tent in under 140 char­ac­ters? That’s what your cus­tomer expects.

Yet cus­tomers who con­tact you on Twit­ter don’t always want to have a pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion about their entire account. This shift demon­strates another way that cus­tomer expec­ta­tions have changed in our always-on world. Cus­tomers use Twit­ter because it’s fast, easy, and mobile. It’s also extremely easy for them to share their expe­ri­ence when things go right (or, when they go wrong.) And they con­tacted you because they want your busi­ness to learn the “right” way to con­tact them — which is a very per­sonal require­ment and might even change com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels dur­ing a sin­gle issue — and for you to remem­ber that preference.

The sec­ond main item to note about the change in cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is that cus­tomers can now eas­ily com­pare your brand or ser­vice to the most respon­sive and service-centric brands in the world. Should you be wor­ried? No way! You now have a direct method to learn from @VirginAmerica, @StarwoodBuzz, and @ComcastCares, and other com­pa­nies that do a fan­tas­tic job extend­ing their ser­vice cul­ture onto Twitter.

You might think that all of this online activ­ity means that you need to be “always-on” and “always avail­able.” It’s cer­tain that being acces­si­ble to cus­tomers is one way to respond to cus­tomer needs and you should def­i­nitely con­sider this as an option … if you’re ready to respond on a 24÷7÷365 sched­ule. You should also respond even if you’re not going to be around all of the time — and you should ensure that your hours of oper­a­tion in that chan­nel are very clear to your customers.

Finally, you should know one thing that hasn’t changed about cus­tomer ser­vice in gen­eral even as the ways cus­tomers con­tact you has changed: that treat­ing peo­ple well mat­ters. If you cre­ate, com­mu­ni­cate, and deliver unique value through ser­vice, your cus­tomers will respond. And in the age of Twit­ter and other social tools,  they’ll tell their friends too.

Cus­tomer Wow at Assistly (a Salesforce.com com­pany.) Social Media. Pho­tog­ra­phy. Sports fan. Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence. Connector.

Greg Meyer