Social media and contact centre professionals: waiting for a breakthrough

Text: Ernst Kruize

The contact centre field is vague. Contact centre activity can be found within all branches and fields of the economy, but they are not all visible. Social media deliver an important contribution to the increasing transparency of a young and growing field, particularly concerning networking as knowledge transfer. The current impact is small. A big part of the current management population did not grow up with the internet and they are often not (inter)active in the web 2.0 world. Of course this is about to change, with the intake of a new generation of professionals.

Sometimes you still stumble across them: contact centre professionals who cannot be found on Linkedin. They are part of a management generation that did not grow up with the internet and have a traditional outlook on networking: having a drink with a snack, after a seminar. There they also meet the people who do have a Linkedin profile, but don’t use it actively: I have Linkedin, but I don’t do much with it! Then there is also a (growing) group of people who are consciously using social networking via the web. In that view, Linkedin is the most used medium in The Netherlands, followed by Xing, Namys and Plaxo. The latter are often used in combination with Linkedin.

The power of Linkedin is twofold: the possibility to let people find you and to present yourself to a group of people you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach. And not to forget the possibility to closely follow your own network. A daily round through the network updates offers you a lot of insight: you can keep up with what someone is doing or who they are meeting. Interesting to know how things are going and to be able to send a message at the appropriate time, for instance to congratulate someone with that new job.

Linkedin is particularly interesting for corporate recruiters. They can now – without using traditional intermediaries – look for professionals with the needed skills and/or experience. Also the growing group of freelancers benefits from this development. Freelance consultants and interim managers can be found and reached more easily.
Linkedin also fulfils an essential function concerning knowledge sharing, by means of the group structure. Like-minded people organize themselves in certain groups and share news, ask questions or hold discussions. It is interesting to see that especially customer contact professionals in the local authority field use Linkedin actively to consult one another: how do you do that, who has tips for me? Openness is the ruling power, but also the trap of Linkedin groups. The spam monster shows its face here. Not with useless offers about diet pills and stuff, but in the form of commercial dealers who don’t understand the rules of the game. Under the pretext of news or a discussion they present their contact centre services or products, without a useful contribution. These are probably the people who muddled up the traditional network socials of previous generations with commercial twaddle.

Of course there is more than Linkedin. Also Twitter is on the up and up. Micro-blogging is a real hype, but also here it is so that there are a lot of inactive people. They have a profile in order not to miss out, but they don’t actively participate. And that is no big deal, since there is also a group of people who twitter everything that comes to mind and this is often tiring and not really interesting. What is interesting are the bookmarks that are being twittered: links to relevant content on other websites. Because of this Twitter also has an interesting function as far as knowledge sharing is concerned.

That’s also true for bookmarking sites like where you can archive and manage your own bookmarks. You create an online library with references you can group and search via tags. This enables an interesting bundling of knowledge. Handy for yourself (as a reference book), but also for others. The worldwide web contains so much information about contact centres that you often get lost. A bookmarking site like Delicious can help to bring order to the mountain of information.

Delicious also enables you to collect presentations and videos. These can be found again via sites like Slideshare, Vimeo and of course Youtube. It is however noticeable that there are more subject-oriented presentations and videos than can be found at these sites. And that is a shame.
By actively sharing information and knowledge, the professionalism of the contact centre field can be increased. Index numbers, benchmarking numbers, best practices: it is useful and necessary that as many people as possible can take in the information. People still deal with the sharing of knowledge in a frenetic way, especially those who make money with it (for instance publishers and consultants) and those who derive their power from it, especially interest groups in the field of contact centres.

The latter should use all the possibilities of social media in a much more active way in order to sell our field of speciality. Informative and substantive presentations, videos and other interactive means can improve the image of the field. And that without the costs of large-scale PR campaigns that in the past were seen as necessary but impossible.
Then why doesn’t this happen? Probably because that generation of professionals who are not acquainted with the possibilities of social media still run the shots in interest groups (particularly the management) . They will be able to change partly, but not to the extent of the onrushing generation of managers who don’t know better than that the world is digital. We can expect social media to have a bigger impact in the world of contact centres. Bring the next generation on!

Ernst Kruize is manager of the Stichting Klanten Contact Academie, a Dutch non profit initiative exerting itself for the implementation of customer contact education.