Sramana Mitra: It sounds like one of the big changes that has happened is the requirement to route to a different set of agents.
Marty Beard: Right. But there’s the higher level point that the world of the agent is becoming more sophisticated. The demands on the agent are increasing.
SM: When the agent responds through a channel, he has to know what happened in the other channels as well so he can give an integrated answer.
MB: Exactly. What’s happened is that the marketing department has realized that the contact center is having a lot more live interactions with end users across a variety of channels. We sell to the head of customer support, but we’re also seeing the head of marketing. It’s becoming more two-way. The distinction between “I tweeted for help and I responded, then linked you to an upsell product” is two-way. Is it support? Is it marketing? It’s both. It’s just customer interaction. I think we’re going to hit a point in the next 15 to 18 months when you start seeing customer interaction organizations instead of customer support over here, marketing over there. The traditional framework just isn’t working. The social world blends those two together.
SM: That’s interesting. The interface between marketing and customer service, the more social and public all the customer comments get, the more they get in the territory where marketing needs to pay attention.
MB: Correct. What we saw is marketing very heavily use social channels to market the company, market its goods and services and was totally unprepared for what happened, which is end users saying, “Okay, you’re marketing to me. I have questions. I have need for support.” And they came back in through the same channel. The call center was totally unprepared for that. Companies have realized that if they’re going to market on Facebook or Twitter, or any social channels, they need their agents to be ready for the inbound. Conversely, when somebody’s on the phone getting a support issue resolved, it’s a perfect opportunity to try to sell something as well.
I believe that organizations will be customer interaction organizations, which will have a blend. They’ll have customer support in there, marketing in there, and they’re working holistically together. The world is forcing it. The distinction between outbound and inbound was easier to control when it was a voice-only world. When you get into social and the rapid-fire interactions, it gets a little difficult.
SM: Voice only or even chat, but at least it was private. Now, it’s all public. Anything the customer says on Twitter or Facebook, it’s all public.
MB: Yes. Given that it’s so public, being able to pivot between public channels and private channels is becoming more important. But when you pivot, you don’t want to drop somebody from one agent to another. You need to be able to pivot. On Twitter, the worst thing you can do is not respond. You at least want to respond, but your response could be, “Thank you. We understand. We’re working on it. Please click on this URL and we can chat,” or “Please call 1 800-boom-boom-boom,” or “Tell us when you’d like us to call you.” You’re trying to get it into a private channel. That’s becoming very popular. If I had to pick one pivoting combination that we’re seeing more and more of, it’s Twitter to chat. At least, I’m off the public domain when I’m doing the chat.
SM: Do you have any guesses as to what the integration or closer interaction between marketing and customer support would look like from a system point of view?
MB: One of the integrations that happens in the majority is your contact center integration with your back-end CRM system. So for example, a person calls in to a financial services contact center. There’s a dip into the CRM system, for example, Salesforce.com to find out information about this person, his account balance or whatever. So, there needs to be an interaction between the contact center application and the back-end CRM application. That one’s a must-have.
In my world, LiveOps, in almost 40% of our integrations, I integrate with Salesforce.com as the back-end CRM system. For the world of customer service, that interaction is becoming increasingly important. You’re bridging sales/marketing information, customer information, with interaction information in the contact center.