I met up for lunch with Vit Horky founder of Brand Embassy and The Future Care Initiative in Prague yesterday and he brought me up to date with new developments in the, currently red-hot world of what’s come to be known as “social care”.

One of the subjects I touched on a few months back was the need for organisations to re-engineer their marketing/customer service, social media infrastructure to accommodate the way that we connect these days. There’s no doubt about it, the trend towards social media platforms as customers’ channel of choice to connect with vendors is now well entrenched. Of course, managing social media can be very labour intensive and sometimes its difficult to spot the return, especially if you are using traditional metrics and KPIs, but the on-the-ball operators who have made changes apparently see only gains once the metrics start rolling in.

The big question remains though, “who manages social care?”. There are a number of models being pursued at the moment. The one involves splitting social media conversations between the marketing department and customer service. This seems to me to be a bit messy and rather less of a commitment than it should be. Vit was telling me about one of the big contact centre groups who are experimenting with a new business model where better trained operators filter off the social care conversations and handle them discretely. This is proving to be a bit of a “wow!” in that it is generating all kinds of benefits beyond the immediate customer engagement. For one they have found that better trained operators perform way-beyond those of the traditional cookie-cutter call-centre operators. They are faster, more efficient, get higher satisfaction scores and are better engaged themselves. In one case the employee lifecycle is ten times that of a traditional call centre, which kind of turns the old call-centre model on its head. Imagine a contact centre whose primary concerns didn’t include the desperate scramble to keep up with employee churn! What on earth will managers do with the time they no longer need to devote to recruiting and training operators!

This brings me back again to another of my recent themes. That of the need and opportunity for marketing services businesses to develop new models if they are to remain relevant. It’s my belief that businesses other than airlines, telcos and banks, who are highly reliant on customer interaction and already have their own in-house contact centres, aren’t going to be able to manage their customer support/social care in-house for much longer. It’s becoming far too specialised and complicated. This seems to me to be the perfect opportunity for contact centres, who have always operated at the periffery of the marketing services industry, to legitimise themselves. Now any contact centre could create a social care cell with more highly-trained operators managing conversations with customers through social channels. All they need is a platform to work on and Brand Embassy lead the field with their inexpensive and highly sorted offering. In fact, in keeping with the pace of change in this sector Brand Embassy are continually and significantly improving their interface so that all the smart (and for some people intimidating) stuff is hidden from view, which makes the transition from contact centre to the social care model far simpler.

Beyond modifying existing contact centres could this also be the opportunity for a completely new marketing services business model? Using the filtering capabilities of Brand Embassy a consultancy could put together an entirely new customer management offer. I’ve just created an integrated CRM/Loyalty programme resource for an international retailer that used in and out-bound telemarketing, social media, direct e-mail marketing and web to not only handle customer queries and service support, but provide a new channel that made direct sales and generated store traffic. With a platform like Brand Embassy this is so much simpler than the processes I had to engage, but it would have been great to have an agency who could take the whole thing and run with it.

Phil Darby
June 18, 2014

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