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Top 5 Reasons for Call Center Turnover

Most if not all conversations about customer service innovation revolve around technology. Topics like revamping the contact center with software that automates processes, saves money, improves operations or saves time (yes, Sparkcentral does all of these things) are universal, but we tend to overlook another important aspect for customer service excellence – the people behind all this technology. In today’s service climate—we’ve all heard it again and again—customer experience is critical to the success and livelihood of brands. Customer service departments are very valuable to an organization because no other department has as much direct contact with customers, can capture as much relevant customer feedback, or has as much impact on customer sentiment. For these reasons alone, looking at ways to reduce call center turnover is critical. 

So why aren’t we investing more into empowering the agents who are on the frontlines of customer interactions?

After stating the obvious, let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind call center turnover and why agents quit:

Key reasons for call center turnover

1. Lack of training and on-the-job learning

Most of the time, customer service agents are entry-level employees who have little to no experience working in a contact center. Without proper training, agents can easily become overwhelmed by the stress and workload of dealing with unsatisfied customers. To make matters worse, they are also expected to use technology that’s complicated and outdated, not to mention decades apart from the consumer technology these 20-somethings are immersed in on a daily basis.

What can you do?  Think beyond the one and done.  Continual coaching of agents has been proven to lead to better performance outcomes and a reduction in call center turnover.  Make it easy for agents to learn as they go along and give feedback that helps them succeed.    

2. Little to no collaboration among team members

What is the level of interaction between co-workers? Are they able to collaborate or just work in a silo?  This is particularly important if you have a team of remote employees that are working from home. Data shows that people who work together on teams are more happy and productive.

What can you do?  Make it easy for team members to connect and collaborate with one another.  A simple way to do this is through an internal chat tool that enables agents to ask one another questions and management to say hello and provide real-time guidance.  If you have team members that work from remote locations, having this type of functionality becomes even more important.  

3.  Burnout from performing repetitive tasks

Performing the same task day after day, with little room for taking on new challenges, can make agents emotionally and mentally exhausted.  Many contact centers have moved towards strict scripts and rigid adherence to processes in an effort to simplify tasks and achieve consistency in service.  However, the downside of these shifts means that agents get to exercise little to no autonomy or creativity in their work.  The monotony and lack of challenge in the work leads to burnout.  

What can you do? Enable agents to experience working in different capacities (as generalists or specialists) and in different customer service channels (phone, email, chat, social, in-app, etc).  The variety that comes with working in different channels helps them hone their skill sets to adapt to customer needs, and keeps the work exciting and fruitful.  

4. Inconsistencies between expectations and performance measurement

Contact centers have been around a long time and not much has changed when it comes to coaching, metrics and optimization. Yet times and expectations are changing and some managers have succumbed to the trap of setting generic metrics that don’t reflect the true outcomes they want to achieve.

Keeping up with all of these social media interactions is challenging, but it helps to have a clear focus on the metrics that matter to both the customer and the business, such as first response time, time to resolution, customer satisfaction (collected through surveys), and in-channel resolution.

We’ve seen that when companies do this well, they can resolve over 95% of issues through social media, while maintaining customer satisfaction levels above 90%. These metrics are also essential in improving agent performance and retention rates.  Are you able to look at messages sent out by individual agents for training purposes?  Additionally, having concrete data around not just timing and resolution rates, but also customer satisfaction, are essential in driving more targeted performance growth and changes.

What can you do? Management needs to do the hard work of making sure that agents are set up to succeed in delivering full resolution care on the channels they support.  

5. Working with outdated and inefficient technology

Working with cumbersome software that is complicated and non-intuitive diminishes agent productivity, forcing agents to take on additional, time consuming tasks like:

    • searching for messages to respond to instead of being assigned the right conversation based on skill specialty
    • determining the customer’s previous interactions with the company – i.e. asking the customer to repeat themselves on their inquiry
    • toggling back and forth between different tabs and systems to get customer profiles and history.

All of this takes the focus from the customer and puts it on the process, which adds to agent stress and frustration, leading to increased call center turnover.

What can you do? Use tools built to support agent process.  One of the main causes of agent inefficiency when it comes to social customer service comes from teams using a social marketing tool to do customer care. There are diminishing returns with that approach as social volume grows and you have multiple agents responding at the same time. Having a platform or software that assigns messages to the right agent at the right time is essential. In addition, it has to have built in collision control, so the same agents don’t start responding to the same message.  These little things along with smart automations can significantly reduce initial response times.  

Agent satisfaction = reduced costs, less turnover  

So, back to stating the obvious. A strong focus on agent satisfaction and retention not only avoids significant costs, but it is also critical to running an excellent call center operation. Motivated agents that enjoy their work are more likely to increase customer satisfaction and contribute to the achievement of the company’s goals. According to Forrester, this is the Age of the Customer, and companies that don’t invest in the technology and people needed to deliver a consistent and effortless customer experience will find themselves at a disadvantage among those that do. Fact is, agents are the face of your company, so why not employ an awesome team of call center agents who love what they do. The success of your company may depend on it.

Interested in learning more about ways to reduce call center turnover? Be sure to read this post on how to effectively interview and hire a social customer service agent.


Publish Date: August 18, 2016 5:00 AM

Sparkcentral Continues International Expansion with New VP for Europe, Middle East, and Africa

European tech-veteran Christoph Neut joins Sparkcentral to support rapid EMEA customer growth and regional business development

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—August 16, 2016—Sparkcentral, the leading enterprise mobile customer engagement platform, today announced Christoph Neut will join the company to further develop its growing portfolio of customers outside of the US and build an EMEA-based customer support organisation.

Christoph brings more than 25 years experience in growth management and international business development, combining visionary insight with a deep understanding of what it takes to make technology firms successful. Prior to Sparkcentral, Christoph served as Chief Commercial Officer and Managing Director with Cegeka Group, a European IT services provider headquartered in Belgium, with annual revenues of more than $400 million. Earlier in his career, Christoph lead TechTeam Global’s EMEA division as Senior Vice President and General Manager, driving the 10-year expansion and growth of TechTeam’s European operations and building a long list of premier international clients. With deep roots in customer service, Christoph also organized some of the first European-based contact center summits for the Institute of International Research.

“I am extremely bullish on the potential for mobile and social customer service adoption across Europe,” said Christoph Neut, Sparkcentral’s new Vice President responsible for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. “As I look back, I see that customer service and contact center technology has not significantly evolved over the past 15 years, so the timing is perfect to introduce Sparkcentral, a game-changing enterprise customer engagement platform that can bring benefits to all service oriented consumer brands across the EMEA region.”

While Sparkcentral has achieved fast-paced growth within the US market, partnering with brands including Delta Air Lines, WestJet, Uber, Nordstrom, JetBlue and Zappos, its customer base also extends throughout EMEA and APAC. Customers including Brussels Airport, N-Allo, Uber, Scottish Water, Opera Software, Emirates, Guaranty Trust Bank and Access Bank will now benefit from a growing customer support organization in EMEA.

“As in every part of the world, the modern consumer has evolved and their service expectations are rapidly changing. Add to this the cultural and language complexity of the EMEA region and servicing costs for enterprises rise dramatically,” said Davy Kestens, CEO of Sparkcentral. “We believe that brands throughout EMEA will gain great returns through the delivery of immediate, personalized and proactive customer care on the latest mobile interaction channels, while substantially driving down the costs of the rest of their contact center organizations.”

Christoph will focus his efforts on expanding Sparkcentral’s EMEA reach through key partnerships with first-mover, innovation-driven enterprises and government agencies looking to meet the growing demands of the hyper-impatient, mobile-first consumer. Over the next 12 months, Sparkcentral also plans to drastically expand its European headquarters in Hasselt, Belgium and is looking to hire sales, marketing, technical support, and top software development talent.

Sparkcentral’s strategic EMEA hire follows its release of key CRM integrations and workforce management connectors, allowing Sparkcentral’s customer engagement platform to be easily integrated with contact center technology solutions from Verint and Aspect, as well as Salesforce CRM or any other homegrown systems.

About Sparkcentral
Sparkcentral is the leading mobile and social customer engagement platform. Customer-obsessed companies use Sparkcentral to manage and resolve customer service interactions over social and mobile channels in a simple, streamlined, and fun way. With the fastest customer routing and prioritization technology in the business and innovative workflow optimization and reporting tools, Sparkcentral helps global brands like T-Mobile, Delta Air Lines, Uber, Nordstrom, JetBlue and Zappos deliver amazing customer service experiences and drive brand loyalty. A recent CODiE award winner for Best Customer Service Solution, Sparkcentral is headquartered in San Francisco, CA and has its EMEA headquarters in Hasselt, Belgium.

Christoph Neut (VP, EMEA)

Sophie Vu (VP, Global Marketing)


Publish Date: August 17, 2016 5:00 AM

15 Tips for Small Social Customer Care Teams

Social media is becoming one of the fastest growing channels for customer service. In fact, the adoption of social customer care programs has increased more than fivefold since 2010, with 62% of companies having adopted a social customer service program in 2015 (Aberdeen Group). Although social customer care is becoming so widespread, many organizations still only have a small number of agents dedicated to handling the massive influxes of incoming messages. While this may seem overwhelming, small teams fortunately aren’t facing an impossible task; they can in fact handle these volumes and scale accordingly.

With a carefully thought-out strategy and the right technology in place, small teams can easily take on a workload similar to that of their much larger counterparts. By putting the right process in place and serving customers more quickly and efficiently, these teams can double, triple or even quadruple the number of conversations they are able to manage. If a company invests in their small social customer care team, both on the agent and technology sides, a tiny team can be set up for huge success.

So whether your customer service team is just getting started in the social space, or whether it has been in the scene for many years, we’ve put together 15 best practices you can implement to win at social customer care.

Social Customer Care Tips 1-15

Tip #1:

Social Customer Care Tips: Clearly display your business hours. Click To Tweet

Tip #2:

Social Customer Care Tips: Enable sound notifications Click To Tweet

Tip #3:

Social Customer Care Tips: Centralize your go-to resources Click To Tweet

Tip #4:

Social Customer Care Tips: Get into a cadence Click To Tweet

Tip #5:

Social Customer Care Tips: Keep it consistent Click To Tweet

Tip #6:

Social Customer Care Tips: Resolve issues where they are Click To Tweet

Tip #7:

Social Customer Care Tips: Document your work Click To Tweet

Tip #8:

Social Customer Care Tips: Automate all things Click To Tweet

Tip #9:

Social Customer Care Tips: Stay focused, filter out spam Click To Tweet

Tip #10:

Social Customer Care Tips: Be methodical with a first-in-first-out approach Click To Tweet

Tip #11:

Social Customer Care Tips: Prioritize urgent conversations Click To Tweet

Tip #12:

Social Customer Care Tips: Label VIPs for priority support Click To Tweet

Tip #13:

Social Customer Care Tips: In order to scale, do things that scale Click To Tweet

Tip #14:

Social Customer Care Tips: Turn insights into action Click To Tweet

Tip #15:

Social Customer Care Tips: Integrate with other platforms and CRMs Click To Tweet

Now that your team is equipped with these social customer care best practices (as well as ways to go above and beyond), take some time to implement them! Want to learn how technology can help your tiny team scale? Check this out. Want to see it in action? Even better!


Publish Date: August 11, 2016 5:00 AM

20 Social Customer Service Stats to Show Your Boss

Defend the Spend with these Social Customer Service Stats

Fact: Social media is the #1 preferred customer service channel for a huge portion of your customers (and soon to be the majority of them). But no matter how many people prefer to use social media for customer service, despite how many customers are reaching out to businesses on social and expecting responses, and regardless of how many new solutions emerge to help brands address this, some bosses are still not convinced of the value of social customer service. We’re sure that your boss is delighted with your enthusiasm. However, you need to tie your vision for social care to their broader objective. They want ROI. First, you need data. Social customer service stats are a great place to start.

So, if you are having trouble convincing your boss about the value of social customer service, we’ve got what you need. We’ve gathered the top 20 social customer service stats (from reputable sources including Harvard Business Review, Gartner, Forrester Research and more) that will surely help you prove the value of social customer service. Most of all, you’ll help your boss defend the spend on this grand but vital initiative. 

Don’t just take our word for it, see below for yourself!

#1-20 Social Customer Service Stats

Social Customer Service Stat #1:

It costs as little as $1 to solve a customer issue on social media, which is nearly 1/6 that of a call center interaction. – McKinsey & Co

Social Customer Service Stat #2:

When companies engage and respond to customers over social, those customers spend 20-40% more with them. -Bain & Company

Social Customer Service Stat #3:

70% of those helped via social customer service return as a customer in the future. -Ambassador

Social Customer Service Stat #4:

71% of consumers who experience positive social customer care are likely to recommend the brand to others, compared with just 19% of customers who do not get a response. -NM Incite

Social Customer Service Stat #5:

Failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15% increase in the churn rate for existing customers. -Gartner

Social Customer Service Stat #6:

Companies that invest in customer service on Twitter have found that resolving issues via Twitter can lead to over 95% of issues being resolved in-channel, and can achieve a customer satisfaction rating of over 90%. -McKinsey & Company

Social Customer Service Stat #7:

Twitter and Facebook are 48% more accurate and 44% faster at delivering customer service responses than email. -Eptica

Social Customer Service Stat #8:

60% of customers expect companies to respond to them on social within the hour. -Twitter

Social Customer Service Stat #9:

Customer service interactions over Twitter have increased 250% in the last two years. -Twitter

Social Customer Service Stat #10:

Companies that developed social care capabilities improved year-over-year revenue per contact by 6.7% through effective up-selling, cross-selling and customer churn reduction versus a 12.1% decline for those without that capability. -McKinsey & Company

Social Customer Service Stat #11:

Customers who experience positive social media interactions are nearly 3X more likely to recommend that brand. -Harvard Business Review

Social Customer Service Stat #12:

Not answering a complaint decreases customer advocacy by as much as 50%. -Convince and Convert

Social Customer Service Stat #13:

Answering a social media complaint increases customer advocacy by as much as 25%. -Convince and Convert

Social Customer Service Stat #14:

77% of people say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service. -Forrester Research

Social Customer Service Stat #15:

55% of people say they are very likely to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question. -Forrester Research

Social Customer Service Stat #16:

For each 1% of shoppers who return for a subsequent visit, overall revenue increases by approximately 10%. If companies invest in keeping another 10% of existing customers happy enough to keep buying, they will double their revenue. -Adobe Digital Index

Social Customer Service Stat #17:

When customers engage with a business through social media, they contribute about 5.6% more to the firm’s bottom line than customers who do not. -Ram Bezawada, PhD, University of Buffalo School of Management

Social Customer Service Stat #18:

67% of consumers have used a company’s social media site for servicing, compared with 33% for social marketing. -JD Power & Associates

Social Customer Service Stat #19:

82% of people who engage with a brand on Twitter for customer service report sharing their positive experience with others, while only 44% who engage on other channels (phone, email, chat, in-person) share their positive experience with others. -Twitter

And finally….

Social Customer Service Stat #20:

Companies that have a well-crafted social customer service approach experience 92% customer retention. -Aberdeen

Now that you’ve gathered these social customer service stats to show to your boss, take it to the next step. Ready to learn how to get started with social customer care?  Watch this webcast with Forrester Research to get started today.


Publish Date: August 4, 2016 5:00 AM

How Do You Hire A Social Customer Service Agent?

We often hear from our customers that hiring the right agent for social customer care is not as simple as hiring for other roles in the contact center and that it’s important to spend time and put careful thought into who to bring aboard.

Thanks to the explosive growth of social media, brands now deliver customer service and support in a more visible and public setting than ever before. This means a new set of skills are evolving to deliver the standard of care that today’s consumers expect on these emerging channels. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates customer service jobs will increase by 400,000, to 2.65 million by 2018.  While adding agents to call centers can be expensive, bringing on social customer care teams can actually reduce servicing costs and improve agent retention.  The cost of a social customer service interaction is 1/6 that of a call center interaction. If your goals are to reduce agent attrition, improve team morale, and continuously raise the bar when it comes to SLAs and other targets, you have to be intentional about hiring for social customer care teams.

What to consider when looking for a social customer care agent

The same way one bad apple can spoil the bunch, a few good folks on your team can improve response quality and grow into strong leaders themselves. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you begin interviewing the best candidates to fill open positions on your agent team.

Before you begin, you should have a clear understanding of what you’re looking for in a candidate and what the job entails on a day-to-day basis. If the hiring manager is not a direct supervisor, consider bringing the supervisor in for at least part of the interview, if not all. Decide if you would like to hire from another team at your company or if you’re hiring someone who has gained experience elsewhere. If you’re hiring an external candidate based on their experience, focus part of your interview on brand passion and culture. This team is your organization’s first line of contact once a customer wants to get in touch. If you’re hiring internally, culture and brand knowledge/passion likely already exist, so you can spend more time making sure their skills are up to your team’s standards. Encouraging current employees to refer friends for positions can improve the quality of applicants and boost morale long-term.

Know before you interview:

  • What is the day-to-day workflow for the role?
  • Is this position remote or at a physical location?
  • Will this be a full-time or part-time job?
  • What is the anticipated compensation? Are team members paid hourly or through a salary model? What are the employee benefits?
  • How much experience do you require in a candidate?
  • Do you need to fill a particular void on the team? For instance, hiring an agent who is bilingual if you have many customers who speak a language that is not yet reflected on your support team.
  • Are they familiar with key social platforms?

Once you have screened enough candidates to bring in individuals for interviewing, you can confidently begin bringing in folks who are top contenders. An interview for a position on a growing customer support team should consist of at least a verbal interview and a written test. The purpose of the conversation is to determine culture fit and communication skills. Testing is used to establish a more qualitative measurement.

What to look for in the question and answer portion of your interview:

  • Is the candidate calm under pressure?
  • How advanced are their communication skills? Are they easily able to explain complicated situations? Can they do so succinctly?
  • What are the candidate’s goals? Are they interested in short-term employment or building a career with your brand?
  • How dependable does this person seem? Were they on time? Are they prepared for their interview?

With the knowledge that the majority of your team’s public interactions with customers are typed and in the wake of so many social snafus by social media agents, it is imperative that everyone you hire can type proficiently. A written exam is not uncommon for many call center jobs, but this must be modified to fit the medium of social interactions. While some people are excellent and quick writers, not everyone types the same way they write. Give your social customer service candidates a problem to solve (if you can provide them with an actual problem your team encounters frequently, that is preferable) and grade their solution, as well as the process they used to get to their answer.

What should be determined by your typed exam:

  • Given limited instructions, is the agent able to use correct spelling and grammar, use common sense/resources, and type quickly and efficiently?
  • Does your prospective agent have difficulty multitasking?
  • How do their common sense and analytical skills hold up under pressure?
  • Is this individual detail oriented or a big-picture thinker?
  • Are they quick and efficient when it comes to both problem solving and typing?

Once you have conducted your in-person agent interviews, consider introducing your top candidates to other team members and leaders. Don’t accept a candidate who doesn’t make the cut – your reputation as a hiring manager and as a brand is on the line. Take time to be intentional about hiring the best person for the job and spend less time hiring their replacements every few months.

If you’re just getting started with social customer service and considering building out a team, read this report to find out how the customer service landscape is changing and how to keep up with your customer’s changing demands:

  • 5 Customer Service Truths


Publish Date: July 28, 2016 5:00 AM

How to Integrate Social Customer Records with Your CRM

If you’re like most large enterprise companies, your customers are reaching out to you on numerous channels, whether that be on social, mobile, chat, traditional phone or email. This means that your customer records and data are probably scattered across various systems, leading to a very fragmented view of your customers. In fact, Gartner research tells us most enterprise organizations have at least two separate applications for CRM and social for CRM, and many have far more than 50 across business domains.

Does this sound problematic? We think so too. That’s why we’ve built out an Open CRM API which allows brands to easily get a comprehensive picture of their customers by connecting the context-rich customer data in Sparkcentral with any CRM they have in-house, whether it’s Salesforce, Genesys or something totally custom and homegrown.

Get customer context with the Open CRM API

The Open CRM API provides brands with a unified view of the customer and empowers agents to deliver the best service possible. The Open CRM API connector pulls in customer contact information such as phone numbers, emails and other identifiers from CRM platforms, creating a more streamlined and contextual experience for customers, agents and managers. Because it is built to be easily customized, configured, and mapped to any existing CRM, contact data can be linked in seconds.

Verify customers securely

Many brands are faced with the problem of connecting social customer identities (such as twitter handles) with their contact record in a CRM. With Secure Authentication, brands can collect and verify customers’ sensitive information in a secure manner, without asking them to share it publicly on social networks. Personally identifiable information (PII) can be connected with unique customer attributes within a CRM, eliminating the need to deflect customers to other channels when verifying them. Once verified, a secure connection is maintained and updated over time, ensuring customers don’t have to repeat this information and agents know exactly who the customer is.

Why is this important?

Two big sources of user data—CRM and social media—come together perfectly to provide a truly comprehensive customer profile, allowing brands to be more personalized and relevant with every customer interaction. Because agents can get a complete picture of the customer in one platform, there is also less time wasted toggling between different systems and tabs. Fragmented customer experiences that force customers to jump from channel to channel are eliminated, and customers no longer have to repeat themselves to multiple agents on multiple channels. As a result, agents are empowered to deliver the best and fastest service possible, ultimately driving productivity and efficiency gains. Handle times are reduced, the amount of conversations handled increases, and cost per conversation decreases. By syncing customer records across social customer care and existing CRM systems, brands will create a competitive advantage and see a change in both value for customers and ROI for the business.

Want to learn more? Download this free guide.

Download Now


Publish Date: July 11, 2016 5:00 AM

How to Improve Social Care Agent Response Times

First and foremost…HAPPY FRIDAY!!!
I bet right now you’re wondering, in this world of social care and improving the customer experience, what can I do to improve agent response times?

(Pictured above: You, as a Philosoraptor pondering a thought)

Kudos to you for having this thought, as only about 11.2% of all brands with a social presence are currently responding to their customers within the first hour of a Tweet or post, while others fall somewhere in the “within a day” to “infinity” time period. This could be because:

  1. Agents are hesitant to communicate with customers on social regarding sensitive information
  2. Agents are too overwhelmed with the amount of inquiries coming in to resolve them in a timely manner
  3. There are too many brand accounts/handles for agents to handle

Here are some of the thing-a-ma-hooeys that you can do to deal with it.1. Enable direct/private messagingIf you’re in the social care space, having the option to communicate with customers in a private channel is a must. This is especially important when exchanging personal information. By enabling direct/private messaging, you also have the option of addressing an irate customer privately by taking the conversation out of the public eye, thereby mitigating the risk of a situation spiraling out of control.
2. Properly staff your teamIf your brand engages in hundreds of thousands of conversations on every social medium that is available, you may want to consider having a NASA-esque center of command to run your operations; a lone wolf agent might not be able to handle that kind of traffic.Conversely, if you have a niche audience that may not have high traffic, you might not want to have your audience navigating through an onslaught of agents.A component of a properly staffed social care squad is good communication within your…well, squad. Having multiple agents working on a single ticket isn’t always preferred, but if it is unavoidable, then the sharing of notes, contextual information, and easily accessible conversation histories would help minimize confusion. You don’t want your social care agents to be clueless when engaging with a customer who previously had a point of contact with your brand.3. Refine accounts and handles within your brand’s social presence

Let’s say your brand has many accounts and handles on social that are meant for different types of engagement (e.g. marketing, social care, product advertisement, etc…). While compartmentalization of these areas can be beneficial, it can be detrimental if those accounts are not properly utilized.Here’s a Twitter example for your eyes:

You’re @coolCo, and you have care handles: @coolCo_Cares, @coolCo_CaresUSA, @coolCo_CaresEU, @coolCo_CaresRohan, and @coolCo_CaresGondor.

Which of these handles would you think your customer would initially engage on?

What if your customer is from Rohan and is travelling to Gondor (because the beacons are lit); which handle would they initially reach out to?

Is your team equipped to intercept and navigate the customer to the proper agent?

Would you divert your customer from one handle to another?

I know I’m throwing out a lot of Q’s that you may or may not have A’s for, but these and many other Q’s are vital questions to ask when you have many accounts and handles that customers may engage with. Customers may not even know that specific accounts and handles even exist.The point here is that having a carefully refined presence online is vital to proper engagement. If you have multiple avenues for customers to engage upon, make sure you make it extremely obvious to the customer.TL;DRThere are many things that affect response times. By carefully considering how your customers communicate with your brand (who they’re communicating with and what they’re communicating on), your brand can be better equipped to lower those response times.

Until next time, have a great weekend and…



Publish Date: July 7, 2016 5:00 AM

How to Staff Your New Social Customer Service Team

So your company has acknowledged social media customer service might be “a thing” these days.

It’s true, providing support to customers on social channels isn’t just cool… it’s ice cold!

Although, as cool as it is being a brand on social media that engages with customers and solves issues for the world to see, it can be a challenge to create a positive, productive, and consistent standard of service on social channels. How do you meet that challenge? Remember, this isn’t a problem you can just throw money at.

The first step is finding a team who will eat, sleep and breath customer service on social media.  Your team is the most important part of the equation, acting as the public voice of your care brand and advocates for your customers. The way your brand is perceived will be strongly influenced by how your customers engage with your social customer service team. 

So you may be asking yourself, what qualities should I look for when staffing such an awesometastic role?

Well if you’re up to the challenge…

(HAH! You were expecting a Barney Stinson .gif weren’t you?)

…we’ll get right into it.

When hiring a new team, crew, or, if you will, a fellowship of fan-frickin’-tastic social customer support agents, you should keep in mind the very basics of great customer service and the characteristics found in a person best suited for this type of role. Additionally, consider more than just the number of years experience your agent candidate has. Social customer care requires a mix of skills but not necessarily with traditional contact center technologies and processes.

In our experience, great customer service agents tend to naturally be (in no specific order):


Eager to please


and KIND

Often these natural tendencies make the best customer service agents. Other skills, such as the ability to care for a customer within company guidelines or experience with a specific technology can all be learned. You can train an associate to use an online tool, but you can’t always teach how to connect with customers in a meaningful way through social conversations and messages.  

Finding associates with natural qualities for social customer care is not going to be easy, not in the least.

Though, just like in any good video game, when met with difficulties on a journey, it usually means you’re headed in the right direction.

In some instances, however, it will be easier to identify agent candidates who should NOT be considered for a role in social customer care. Here are some classic reasons why someone shouldn’t be anywhere near a care team:

The clueless candidate who only applied to the job description because it called for “experience with social media platforms.”

The overly confident candidate with previous customer service experience who claims to be able to solve all issues on any platform.

The apathetic candidate who probably only applied because their parents said if they didn’t find a job soon that they’d be cut off.


And the candidate who would just terrorize the office.

…I mean, you know the type…

Social customer service agents are operating in a very public space and you can’t afford any slip-ups. Your best people already know your company and can give the type of quick, yet thorough responses that social customers expect. Hiring the right team for the job is never easy, but with a bunch of opinions and a metric ton of gifs, we hope we’ve at least made this challenge more fun! 

For a more detailed look at how social customer service teams can extend the work of social media marketers, check out this on-demand webinar with Discover Card’s social customer service team and Sparkcentral.

  • Bridging the Gap Between Marketing and Customer Service on Social Media

Until next time…stay ice cold.


Publish Date: July 1, 2016 5:00 AM

Sparkcentral Wins Best Customer Service Solution at SIIA CODiE Awards

We’re excited to share Sparkcentral was named Best Customer Service Solution at the 2016 SIIA CODiE Awards. The award, presented by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal trade association for the software and digital content industries, was awarded May 19th after a first round of judge evaluations and a second round review and vote by SIIA Members.

This award win reflects our dedication to helping brands deliver personalized and amazing customer experiences at scale across any modern messaging channel, and validates our commitment to enabling businesses to engage customers in more meaningful ways on the channels they prefer. We’re excited to continue leading the industry with more innovations to improve customer experiences and help brands stand apart. This year alone was one of our busiest years for new developments to boost customer service delivery for our customers. In just the last six months, we shipped the following updates to the Sparkcentral customer engagement platform:

CRM and workforce management integrations

With our new CRM integrations, brands can create a unified customer view by bringing together the context-rich customer data in Sparkcentral with any CRM they have in-house, whether it’s Salesforce, Genesys or something totally custom and homegrown. With Sparkcentral’s workforce management integrations, social customer service teams can ensure they have the right number of reps on staff at the right time and avoid throwing money away or frustrating customers by either over or under staffing.

Facebook Messenger support

Sparkcentral is one of the first social customer service platforms to integrate directly with the Messenger platform, pulling all historic, threaded Messenger-based customer communications into the into Sparkcentral environment so care agents have the context they need, the moment they need it. With Messenger integration, brands can deliver quick and personalized support through the massively popular chat app.

WeChat support

With WeChat support, brands can engage with and support 700 million more customers throughout China and internationally, just as they do on Facebook and Twitter. Adding WeChat support will help brands and customer care teams move towards full, high-volume, enterprise-grade customer service resolution.

Customer Feedback within Twitter

In order to improve experiences, brands that provide support on Twitter can now easily obtain feedback from the customers they interact with in a simple and structured way. Customer service agents can ask customers to fill out an NPS or a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey with one click, and teams can use the Customer Feedback Dashboard to analyze NPS and CSAT scores, along with historical trends for both.

Secure Authentication

Sparkcentral’s Secure Authentication service enables enterprises to compose a branded authentication experience where sensitive customer information like account numbers, email addresses, and phone numbers can be shared through a secure and encrypted environment. Secure Authentication provides a redirect for the submission of account information directly from customers to care, enabling agents to provide quicker support after receiving the exact information they need. This data can then be automatically synced to the unique customer profile in Sparkcentral for instant access by customer service agents.

About the CODiE Awards

Since 1986, the SIIA CODiE Awards have recognized numerous software and information companies for achieving excellence. The CODiE Awards remain the only peer-recognized program in the content, education and software industries, and serve as incredible market validation for a product’s innovation, vision and overall industry impact. For more information, visit

About SIIA

SIIA is the leading voice for technology, data and media companies. Companies rely on SIIA to help drive innovation and growth of their industries through public policy efforts, in-person and online events and the protection of intellectual property. For more information, visit


Publish Date: June 7, 2016 5:00 AM

Get a Unified Customer View with New Sparkcentral CRM Integrations

Your customers are talking to you across an ever-expanding number of new social and mobile channels as well as the established ones like email, web-chat, traditional phone, and self-service offerings. This means you probably have customer records and data scattered across various CRMs and systems that should be connected to provide teams with a unified customer view. Gartner research tells us most enterprise organizations have at least two separate applications for CRM and social for CRM, and many have far more than 50 across the business domains (How to Incorporate Social Data for CRM Into Your Quest for a 360-Degree View of the Customer).

Today, we’re happy to share a new way to bring together the context-rich customer data in Sparkcentral with any CRM you have in-house, whether it’s Salesforce, Genesys or something totally custom and homegrown.

Using our newly released Open CRM API, you can now connect Sparkcentral customer records with legacy customer data and begin moving towards a 360-degree customer view.

Why is this so important?

In order to provide a truly amazing customer experience, brands need to have have a comprehensive and unified view of their hyper-connected, multi-modal customers. This means brands not only need to be able to talk to their customers on any channel (whether that be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WeChat, or via mobile In-App messaging), but must also be able to view this collective customer data in a unified profile, with context available to customer care agents the moment they need it. After all, the more up-to-the-second information companies have about their customers, the better they can understand, serve and build loyalty with them.

Imagine being at a cocktail party with several acquaintances. You wouldn’t walk up to someone saying, “Hey #143, oh wait, you’re Angie,” after you just had a lengthy conversation with her the weekend prior. It would be nice if you remembered how many kids Angie had and how her new job was going. The same goes for a customer service interaction. Having the context on all of the exchanges that a customer has ever had with a brand is a vital part of an amazing customer experience. In a sea of sameness, creating personal interactions is what truly helps brands differentiate themselves from competitors and gain loyalty among their customers.

Integrated social care and CRM = more delightful experiences, better relationships and increased sales

When customer care teams have unified customer context at their fingertips and know who their customers are regardless of the channel being used, they can provide higher quality support in a faster, more frictionless way. They can also better relate to customers as individuals, leading to stronger, more personal interactions. The result? Brand advocates who spread brand awareness. And that means greater ROI for less effort. But customer care teams are not the only ones who can benefit from a unified customer view; sales and marketing teams can receive insight as well. Sales teams can gain a better understanding of customers and their buying motivations from every touchpoint, and get better clarity on which team members should be assigned to what accounts. Marketing teams can use this enriched insight to update customer profiles for lead generation, and refine buyer personas to target similar customers in the future.

With the right technology and process in place, companies can have access to all of the information they need to deliver amazing experiences without forcing customers to channel-hop, asking customers for information repeatedly or taking too long to identify them. Brands that take this #customerfirst route will inevitably delight customers, stand out among competitors, and increase conversions, marketing ROI and revenue.

Watch the Video


Publish Date: May 24, 2016 5:00 AM

Better Together: Workforce Management and Social Customer Service

Forecasting social media interactions across Twitter, Facebook and other channels is still a dark art for many brands entering the world of social and mobile customer service. With the rise of social media and the always-on and increasingly impatient customer, workforce management has become a new challenge for contact centers in its own right.

To improve the analytics and reporting around social interaction volume and help enterprises staff social customer service teams more effectively, Sparkcentral is today launching new integrations with workforce management platforms Aspect, Calabrio and Verint. With these new platform connectors, customer care managers can download agent performance data and start integrating social care metrics into forecasting.

Using Sparkcentral’s WFM integrations, customer care teams can ensure they have the right number of reps on staff at the right time and avoid throwing money away or frustrating customers by either over or under staffing.

Interested in trying out WFM connectors? Be an early adopter and reach out for a first look at how it works.


Publish Date: May 24, 2016 5:00 AM

Sparkcentral Announces Platform Enhancements, Partnerships and Enterprise Integrations to Deliver True 360-Degree View of the Customer

CRM and Workforce Management Connectors, Plus Strategic Partnerships Help Brands Run Social and Mobile Customer Service More Efficiently and Enhance the Customer Experience

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwired – May 24, 2016) – Sparkcentral, the leading enterprise customer engagement platform, today announced major platform developments, CRM integrations and key strategic partnerships to better connect and scale social customer service within the contact center.

While most brands today recognize customer interactions on social media should be handled by customer service teams, most contact centers haven’t yet evolved their organization or technology infrastructure to adapt to the social revolution and the ever-connected, multi-modal customer.

Gartner reports less than 1% of organizations are doing anything to reconcile social and legacy customer data. In order to provide a unified customer experience, customer service agents, marketers, digital commerce professionals and salespeople must have a 360-degree view of the customer they are interacting with (How to Incorporate Social Data for CRM Into Your Quest for a 360-Degree View of the Customer). Additionally, Gartner predicts that through 2017, companies that avoid taking steps to unify social data with CRM and other customer records will mishandle interactions and annoy customers, resulting in a potential 25% reduction in revenue gains. To meet this challenge, Sparkcentral’s newly released Open CRM API offers brands a simple way to connect and sync customer records across social customer care and existing CRM systems.

“To make social customer service a truly viable, full-scale channel, enterprises need reliable ways to connect disparate legacy systems and create one unified view of the customer, whether customers are interacting with a brand by phone, Twitter, Facebook or even messaging channels like WeChat,” said Davy Kestens, CEO of Sparkcentral.

“Sparkcentral’s Open CRM API and workforce management connectors are designed to link and integrate customer interactions across social and mobile channels seamlessly into the enterprise’s overall customer experience strategy — these platform developments are a critical next step towards truly integrated customer care.”

Breaking down data silos for a unified view of the customer

To solve customer issues quickly on any channel, the contact center must be where a brand’s customer service technology comes together, creating a well-oiled, data-driven machine. With the right contact center technology and processes in place, companies can deliver amazing service without forcing customers to channel-hop, asking customers for information repeatedly, or simply taking too long to identify them.

Sparkcentral’s Open CRM API enables brands to:

  • Import customer records and data from any CRM and populate existing Sparkcentral contacts to enrich each customer’s profile
  • Safely verify customer identities on social channels in a matter of seconds and automatically sync that information with CRMs, when combined with Sparkcentral’s industry-first Secure Authentication service
  • Connect customer records from Genesys CRM, Oracle CRM, and any custom-built CRMs to Sparkcentral via the API and help customer service agents better serve ‘in-the-moment’ customers with the context they need.

“Sparkcentral’s industry-first Secure Authentication service has already been a huge success for our partners’ social customer care teams,” said Jerry Fletcher, VP Customer Success, Sparkcentral.

“Our brands are now able to extend this powerful, time-saving integration so care agents have even more customer context at their fingertips the moment they need it. By leveraging the Open CRM API, brands can deliver the best possible customer experience and serve customers on social channels in the same capacity as they do on the phone, via email or other traditional modes of customer support.”

Connecting Salesforce and Sparkcentral to close the loop on vital customer information

As the world’s largest and most widely used CRM, Salesforce is a critical business tool for finding and supporting customers. Sparkcentral today announced a new out-of-the-box Salesforce integration that enables companies to link contacts and conversation histories in Sparkcentral with Salesforce customer records. By integrating with Salesforce, Sparkcentral can enable brands to close the loop between sales and support and reap the benefits of up-to-the-minute customer support and engagement context across the contact center.

Sparkcentral for Salesforce provides a two-way integration with new functionality:

  • Access Salesforce customer records from Sparkcentral and enrich social customer profiles with critical contact level attributes like case numbers, personal identification information, and membership statuses
  • Sync Sparkcentral conversation histories with Salesforce contact profiles and gain a more holistic view of customers across both platforms.

Forecasting social interactions and optimizing customer service teams

Forecasting social media interactions across Twitter, Facebook and other channels is not yet a science for brands in the way voice or ticketing support has become. In order to improve the analytics and reporting around social interaction volume and help enterprises staff customer service teams effectively, the Sparkcentral platform can now connect and share data to Aspect, Calabrio and Verint workforce management platforms. With these new integrations, enterprises can download agent performance data and empower managers to integrate social care metrics into forecasting.

To bring these critical integrations to the Sparkcentral Customer Engagement Platform, new strategic partnerships with key contact center technology providers including Genesys and Calabrio have also been announced today. These partnerships will ensure that the technology solutions are able to pass important information to one another and deliver a streamlined customer and agent experience.

San Francisco-based Sparkcentral has deep roots in transforming modern customer service as one of the first platforms to provide brands a way to support and engage with customers on social and mobile channels. Having added support for Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and in-app messaging, in the last year the team has quadrupled in size and continued to add global brands to its client roster including T-Mobile, Discover, Netflix, Delta Air Lines, Zappos, Uber and JetBlue. Sparkcentral was also just awarded Best Customer Service Solution in the 2016 CODiE Awards in business technology. In an era of the empowered, hyper-connected customer, Sparkcentral is the only enterprise-grade customer engagement platform that enables brands to proactively deliver personalized and amazing customer experiences at scale across any modern messaging channel.

Watch the Video

About Sparkcentral

In the age of the customer, Sparkcentral is the only enterprise customer engagement platform that unifies social, mobile, cloud and contextual data to proactively deliver personalized and engaging customer experiences. Customer service teams use Sparkcentral to efficiently handle large amounts of inbound inquiries over social media, mobile apps and messaging platforms in a fast and structured way. Sparkcentral’s client roster includes Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Netflix, Nordstrom, Dropbox, Uber and T-Mobile. To learn more, visit


Publish Date: May 24, 2016 5:00 AM

It’s Not Bad Luck- It’s a Bad Customer Experience Strategy

Friday the 13th has long been considered a day of bad luck in Western superstition. Some people are so paralyzed with fear on this day that they simply won’t get out of bed. Others will refuse to fly on an airplane, buy a house, or act on a hot stock tip. It’s been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not do business that they would normally do.

Although superstition can be fun, we have to think realistically. If your company’s social customer experience is suffering this Friday the 13th, let me tell you that it’s not bad luck- it’s most likely just a bad strategy.

What exactly lies at the heart of a good social customer experience strategy? People and technology of course! While people are the drivers of a good strategy, technology is the enabler. Without people, technology is virtually useless, and without technology, scalability is impossible.

Happy People
Happy employees are the key to a productive social customer service team, which is essential for providing a great customer experience. Studies show that happiness in the workplace leads to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers are 10% less productive. Because happiness has such large and positive causal effects on productivity, keeping contact center agents happy is imperative when it comes to the bottom line.

In many situations, customer service teams are often given the responsibility of dealing with all of the negative customer interactions over social, while marketing teams tend to take on all of the positive ones. This is problematic because it creates a discouraging work environment for customer service teams. In order to keep your contact center agents happy, there needs to be a shift in responsibilities among marketing and customer service teams. Customer service teams should be empowered to own all inbound customer service interactions, and marketing teams should handle outbound interactions like publishing and brand awareness over social. Once the two teams are aligned and responsibilities are clear, employee productivity can increase.

Effective Technology
So your customer service team now owns all service related customer interactions. But how do they manage the massive amount of inquiries that come in? The answer? Technology. With the right social customer service solution, contact center agents can effectively scale and measure social care efforts. Because technology is the backbone of every social customer service strategy, your program will only ever be as good as your technology allows it to be. Ask yourself these questions: Does your solution empower your customer service team to be autonomous? In other words, is it a dedicated customer service platform with an interface built to help them do their job in the most efficient and productive way possible? Do your agents know who they are talking to? Can they respond fast and with context? If you answered ‘no’ to any of these, something should change. Agents should feel they are equipped to do their job well so they can more easily resolve issues and better maximize customer satisfaction.

Uncross Your Fingers
If contact center agents are happy, motivated and have the resources to do their job to the best of their ability, your company will be on track to providing great customer experiences. So this Friday the 13th, you can skip the salt throwing, wood knocking and rabbit foot rubbing; you won’t need it.


Publish Date: May 13, 2016 5:00 AM

5 Predictions for the Future of Customer Service

There is no denying it. The impact of customer service on how customers perceive and interact with brands is paramount. In a time when so many companies have similar offerings, customer service has become a way to distinguish yourself in a crowded marketplace. With the advent of user-generated ratings and feedback over social media and online, businesses are constantly under the microscope. Customer service can no longer be defined by lengthy waits on the phone. Customers now expect near-instant responses to their needs. The brands that recognize this shift are the ones that will continue to prosper in 2016 and beyond. Here are five predictions that will drive change in the customer service industry for years to come.

1. Seeing is believing

Video chat will play a larger role in customer service, by injecting the “human” element back into technology. Companies like Amazon, American Express, and major players in the car industry have adopted video chat as part of their customer service offering, and are reaping the benefits. The car industry, for example, has found over 30% of live video chat shoppers go on to visit the showroom and conduct a test drive.

2.  Context is king

According to recent reports, people expect you to know something about them when they contact customer service, especially if they are a repeat visitor. Maserati, the renowned luxury car brand, took over 50 attributes of their visitors to create a more personalized customer experience, and was able to increase their average conversion rate by 28.4% and their net-revenue by over 50%. Customer engagement platforms that collect information about a customer will be on the rise. More companies will be on the lookout for technology that is able to integrate and merge information about a customer that will lead to a more customized experience. In addition, consumers will come to expect a higher level of personalization from the brands they interact with on a regular basis.

3. Never leave your apps

More and more customers will demand the ability to access live customer service from directly within an app, rather than having to pick up a phone to call customer service. Companies like T-Mobile use Sparkcentral’s In-app messaging platform to enable its customers to instant message a live agent, without ever leaving the app. If you build it, they will come- We’ve all heard the numbers– according to Gartner, there will be 25 Billion connected things by 2020. This means the number of incoming customer service requests will continue to rise in the coming years. Being able to manage these requests will be just as important as creating new and innovative connected products.

4. If you build it, they will come

We’ve all heard the numbers– according to Gartner, there will be 25 Billion connected things by 2020. This means the number of incoming customer service requests will continue to rise in the coming years. Being able to manage these requests will be just as important as creating new and innovative connected products.

5. Consistency is the key

Creating a unified customer experience, no matter how a customer contacts you will become even more important. Customers will expect the same level of customer service across every social media platform, over the web and even by phone. Having this level of consistency will become imperative in creating a unique customer experience.


Publish Date: May 13, 2016 5:00 AM

WeChat as a Scalable Service Channel

Today we are excited to announce the launch of WeChat support on Sparkcentral, utilizing the Sparkcentral Channel Connect API. WeChat is a major messaging service and social networking giant throughout Asia. Increasingly, brands are being asked to engage with and support customers on WeChat, just as they do on Facebook and Twitter. By extending our platform to include WeChat, we’re now the first enterprise-class customer service solution to help turn WeChat into a full, scalable service channel.

As companies are trying to keep their customers happy by meeting them on the channel of their choice, there is all of a sudden a massive influx of communications through social channels and messaging apps that the old outdated contact centers are not equipped to handle. According to Business Insider, “For the first time, the top four messaging apps combined have just as many users as the top four social networks.”

Become the brand you want to be

Sparkcentral WeChat support caters towards innovative and forward-thinking brands who want to create global social customer service experiences and provide the best, most tailored customer service to their customers on any channel. While, we already unify customer engagements for brands across Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and via In-App Messaging, the extension of the platform to include WeChat is significant for a few reasons.  In a world where customer expectations are reaching an all time high, if your company can’t respond in an organized, time sensitive way, your customers will be long gone. Our vision is to enable amazing customer experiences by overhauling bloated enterprise contact center platforms. The software itself isn’t built to reach modern digital customers, and agents get weighed down by outdated interfaces and complicated processes.

Modern customers aren’t just asking you to respond quickly. They want issues to be resolved with as little effort (on their part) as necessary. According to Forrester Research, “77% of customers believe that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service.” This means companies can no longer just say, “oh we have a Facebook, you can reach us there.” Nope. They need to be wherever their customers are, meaning if you want to keep your customers, you need to be on whatever mode of communication they are on. And guess where 700 million of them are? You guessed it, on WeChat. It is available in more than 200 markets and supports more than 20 different languages.

From WeChat and beyond

We preach great customer service because we live and breath it, and at the end of the day, we are all customers. We believe technology shouldn’t hold brands back from delivering on their brand promise. Our entire platform is built to provide the solutions and training needed to turn brands into what we know they can be. We are building a platform for the future, one that allows you to easily reach your customers on whatever channel they’re on… what’s more? Since this has been our game plan from the beginning, everything is built to be as seamless as possible for both the agent and customer. No more black holes, forgotten conversations, or endless wait times. Want to see only specific topics? There’s a tag for that. Need to set a reminder for a follow-up with a customer? We’ve got boomerangs. Anything you can dream of, we’ve thought of, from WeChat and beyond.

 See WeChat in Action


Publish Date: May 10, 2016 5:00 AM

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