Here we are… welcome to 2020! We have just completed the second decade of this new millennium. “Change” is the best word to describe the overarching force as we kick off another new year. Change and learning go hand in hand and some lessons are deeper and more meaningful than others. Some lessons bring pleasure while others bring pain. And all bring learning.
The contact center has always been a place of tremendous change as it sits in the center of the customer experience within many organizations. Meeting the evolving needs and whims of customers is a major force in the changing dynamics of today’s contact centers. Customers today have tremendous options, power, attitudes and an abundance of choices!
Customers have never been more visible, and in many ways more powerful, as they are today. This power has forced organizations to face new and challenging demands, often leveraged by customers engaging in social media commentary and demanding attention to resolve issues. Social media offers organizations another channel for resolving issues and learning some serious lessons; to many, managing this is new.
A Lesson Learned
Social media lessons abound. While Twitter, Facebook and Instagram top the charts, companies are often more concerned about ratings on Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc., rather than rants on other sites. Many consumer-driven organizations have faced the reality of social media’s impact.
Remember the “United Breaks Guitars” song? A Canadian band wrote and published this song on YouTube in 2009. It tells how United Airlines baggage handlers broke a guitar and refused to compensate the musician! The song is still posted and 10 years later it has nearly 20 million views! As a result, United took a social media beating. The song was catchy and everyone loves to hate the airlines, so the story leaped from social media to news media. It was covered in print, TV, radio and by word of mouth. United’s refusal to pay $1,200 to the musician for his broken guitar cost the company mightily.
There are many lessons to be learned around an organization’s social media response and its operational requisites. Many questions must be answered, for example:
- Who monitors social media feeds?
- Who is responsible for responding?
- Who owns posting?
These are clearly the most simplistic queries, but it is a fine place to start. These questions identify the internal organizational structure required and designed to support social media.
A Case for the Contact Center
Interestingly enough, there is not always a clear path to developing and supporting a social media infrastructure. While I personally believe that the contact center is the right spot to route social media interactions, many do not. Marketing often handles social media. One issue is that marketing often doesn’t have the infrastructure (or the interest in some cases) to monitor and respond in a timely fashion. After all, its expertise is in posting! The other issue I see is that marketing often uses systems not deployed to other parts of the organization. This limits the ability to provide true omnichannel tracking of customer interactions. I know of one organization that formed an entirely new team to address customer complaints on social media rather than address and fix the root cause: the existing customer service department, which was understaffed, undertrained and poorly managed, leading to many of the escalations in the first place.
Social media must be closely monitored and managed. The contact center is the likely place to have the technology (or the best place to put such technology) that integrates the distribution and management of this channel. To connect a social media posting to a customer’s profile allows the frontline agent to have the total view of the customer’s history. If the contact center takes control of social media interactions it is best served by learning how to keep marketing close and informed.
Marketing departments vary mightily depending on the industry. E-commerce tends to have tight and targeted teams dedicated to product and services offerings. They may handle retail, wholesale, e-commerce, etc., and manage the customer experience across multiple channels from a messaging and brand perspective. It is not typically marketing’s forte to have direct interactions with customers. Direct follow-up on social media comments becomes a bit of a challenge from both a cultural and a technical perspective. A compelling reason to have these interactions handled in the customer care contact Center—its forte is actually engaging with the customer and solving their problems.
A Look at Health Care
In particular, it is important for healthcare organizations to monitor and respond to social media. Physicians must understand that it is much bigger than Facebook and Twitter. Sites are popping up everywhere for reviews to be posted. How the organization handles the social media “channel” is important; it is critical to partner with other stakeholders to manage and monitor.
Healthcare marketing departments are a bit different than in other organizations. Here we often find full-blown contact centers created to handle multiple campaigns. We are all familiar with some of these… flu season kicks off the flu shot campaign, back-to-school highlights requesting health forms early to meet opening-day timelines, and campaigns abound to help find a new primary care doctor. The list goes on and on.
Healthcare marketing contact centers also tend to use CRM (customer relationship management) systems to design increasingly targeted campaigns for specific demographics in specific zip codes. They are also where we may find the handling of interactions from the website and from social media. One of the challenges in this model is that often marketing is the ONLY department using CRM; the benefit of any insight gained isn’t shared with other departments. This seriously limits the omnichannel objective of monitoring the patient/customer experience across all touchpoints in the patient journey.
The lessons and changes in health care are significant. Physicians and other service providers (nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists and behavioral health practitioners) are struggling with the new reality of online reviews. “Operationalizing” social media has proven to be a challenge for business leaders in many institutions. A physician’s evaluation criteria is as much about experience factors (e.g., communication, “bedside” manner and delays) as it is about clinical expertise. Some reviewers may be pill hunters who will write scathing reviews because of new rules in prescribing pain medications.
Social media has resulted in a massive cultural change for health systems and a growing reality for physicians. Here is a list of websites where physician reviews can be found:
- Medscape—Provides access to medical information for clinicians and continuing education for physicians and health professionals.
- Healthgrades—Features more than 1.1 million provider listings and 7 million reviews and ratings. Rating categories include level of trust and ability to help patients understand their condition.
- Vitals—Claims to have 10,000 doctor reviews uploaded each month. Allows ratings for accurate diagnosis, promptness, friendly staff, easy appointments, appropriate follow-up and wait time.
- Yelp—Hosts Non-healthcare reviews, but has 13 million reviews of doctors and Healthcare organizations.
- RateMDs—Claims a database of over 2 million ratings and reviews of physicians. Review categories include punctuality, helpfulness and knowledge.
- Wellness.com—Claims that if a doctor disputes a review, it will be taken down until it hears from the reviewer, and then it will make a final decision.
- ZocDoc—Online service for patients to book appointments with doctors who pay to have a listing. Provides doctor reviews to enable that process.
Words That Matter
A research study at Penn Medicine found several keywords to look for when evaluating online reviews. (Perhaps these should be added to your analytics library.) The word “told” dominated the bad reviews while the words “friendly” and “great” were the favorites in the positive reviews.
An analysis of 51,376 reviews for 1,566 U.S. hospitals found that the word “told” appeared in 9,578 reviews. Taken together, these averaged 1.78 stars. “Oftentimes, words such as ‘told’ hint at a breakdown in communication,” said Anish Agarwal, MD, a National Clinician Scholars fellow and Emergency Medicine physician at Penn Medicine. “I suspect that patients are not feeling listened to or heard and this could be driving poor experiences and low reviews.”
When it came to positive reviews, the word “friendly” was found in nearly 11% of responses (of 5,594 total responses). Along with the word “great,” this correlated the most with five-star reviews. In these, reviews often focused on the clinical staff’s demeanor and attentiveness. (“The entire staff was very friendly and made sure we were taken care of.”)
Social Media in 2020
Social media critics are not going away… ever! Organizations must determine the best way to operationalize and integrate this reality into day-to-day activity. The contact center is likely the best place for quick response as well as analytics to address recurring issues.
Of course, some of the core questions previously mentioned will require that cross-functional relationships be leveraged to provide the best experience to the customer. The contact center must work closely with marketing and other parts of the enterprise to assure successful outcomes from social media activity.
In addition, social media is pointing out to various industries what customers value most. The Penn Medicine Healthcare study highlights the fact that customers generally want the same thing regardless of “industry.” Simply be nice (“friendly”), be accurate (“told”), and be timely in response and resolution. All these require an operational plan to execute consistently.
The No. 1 lesson organizations are learning now is that social media interactions must be integrated into the customer experience from an operational perspective. This is why the contact center is becoming an optimum place to position this channel. It will be critical to craft a plan for managing and implementing this task.
Good luck in 2020! Keep on learning more about the experiential, cultural and operational requirements needed to support social media management within your organization.