I don’t think anyone took me seriously when I wrote my first report about the potential impact of social networking and Web 2.0 applications in the contact center back in 2008. Maybe it was a bit of a stretch at the time, so over the past couple of years I’ve taken the question of social media in the contact center to the buyers. The results have provided me with interesting insights into the collective thoughts of the end-user community.
Besides my job as an analyst with Saddletree Research, I also work under contract as research director at the National Association of Call Centers (NACC), which is an offshoot of the Call Center Lab at The University of Southern Mississippi (www.nationalcallcenters.org). The NACC is a non-profit contact center membership organization with the lofty goal of serving the North American industry and in particular, NACC members with research, business development, trend analysis and advisory services.
Because the NACC is a university-based organization, my research work for them has to adhere to university-level research standards. In other words, I can’t just make stuff up, which often puts me at a disadvantage relative to other analysts but that’s a topic for another posting. Suffice it to say that I get called to the carpet if I can’t back up my statements with statistically valid data.
With that in mind, I’ve gone to the contact center end-user community for the past two years to gauge the industry’s interest in social media. Again, this isn’t stuff that I made up. I’m not looking into my analyst crystal ball and telling you what I think might happen because I’m so smart, I’m asking customer service professionals what their attitudes and intentions toward social media are and reporting, in statistically valid numbers, what is actually happening in the industry.
In a survey I conducted with 110 contact center professionals in 2009, only 12.7 percent of respondents were actively preparing plans to incorporate social networking and other Web 2.0 applications in their contact center. Fully 25 percent of respondents didn’t know what social networking was. The full response results to the social media question were as follows:
I asked a similar question about social networking in the contact center to those 110 customer service professionals this year and the results reveal a clearly shifting trend regarding social networking in the contact center. Responses to the same question this year are as follows:
These survey results are representative of the U.S. contact center industry with a confidence level of 95% and a confidence interval of 10.
While there is clearly a shift toward using social media as a customer contact tool in the contact center, I believe the shift to social media dependence will be careful and measured on the part of the user. Unlike the CRM-mania that we witnessed a decade ago, customer service professionals will be a little more skeptical when it comes to interacting with their customers via social networking. Those who hope to provide contact centers with the technology they’ll need to take advantage of the social networking trend will also need to understand and work with this buyer skepticism.
Cisco is clearly moving in tandem with the pace of the user community relative to social media in the contact center. In terms of understanding the impact of social media in the customer care function, the race will be a marathon rather than a sprint.