by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Michael Oelschig (@MikeOelsch), MD digital of Wunderman Thompson South Africa, explains the ins and outs of keeping customers satisfied online.

Q5: How do you build a social-media command centre?
Michael Oelschig: There are so many considerations and variables, it is really tough to be concise in this answer. So, I’ll focus on what I believe to be the most-important factors. The first is the buzziest of buzzwords — data. You need to know how many contacts, queries, complaints etc you currently get on a month-to-month, day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis, but also how much you project to get in future. Once you know that and you know what your SLA [service level agreement] should be (response rates, response times, average handle times etc), you can then work out how many agents/community managers you need. But then it gets more complicated — what times of the day do you get most queries? Because you need to create the ideal shift structure that has the most agents in the busy times and the least in the not-so-busy times. The more you get into the data, the more cost-effective and -efficient the team will be.

The next most-important thing is getting the processes right. The agents you hire aren’t going to know the details of every product off the bat (and, for more-complicated companies, not for a long time), so you need to have it documented on how to find the right answers; who to escalate serious complaints to; who to talk to when they see an opportunity for proactive engagements, etc. The worst things brands do is make their own complexities the customer’s problem. Make sure that everything is seamless behind the scenes, so that even new people can service a customer easily and quickly.

And, lastly, understand that not all command centres are made equal — if you are a service brand, like Vodacom, you need service-driven community managers and service-driven KPIs, whereas more relationship-driven brands need more-conversational community managers with more-qualitative KPIs. Most companies need a custom mix of the two based off their specific needs. Some command centres will even have content producers for quick turn, tactical content. So there is no cookie-cutter approach to command centres; understand what you need and go from [there].

Q5: Within that centre, how do you balance quick response times with customer and employee satisfaction?
MO: Quite simply, ensure you have a mix of quantitative and qualitative KPIs. These need to be measured together as one score because, if you focus too hard on response times, for example, it is very easy to become robotic with copy-and-paste type answers; focus too hard on something like having brand-building conversations with customers and you can become very slow. The ideal is balancing the two. Just bear in mind that, by their very nature, qualitative KPIs can only be measured manually — so there is a bit of work to be done, come reporting time.

Q5: How can a company accurately measure customer-satisfaction levels from social-media engagement with it?
MO: In a few ways. The traditional NPS-type scoring is still useful — so, basically, just asking the customer about their experience. But then the tools we use are getting very smart in this sense as well. While we have had automated sentiment scoring for a while, it is very broad, not very accurate and adds very little business insight into the why of the relative sentiment. But now we are moving into being able to use these tools to take this unstructured online conversation and structure it into key business drivers that we can measure and score in real time. So, not only can we automatically measure levels of unhappiness, we can dig into what is causing it. The caveat to this is the listening or engagement tool has to be configured in a very smart way — and not many people know how to do this effectively.

And then we can also make assumptions using the data: if response rates are going down, average handle times are going down and the number of interactions (basically how many times a customer has to come back to us before their issue is resolved) is going down, we can assume the experience for the customer is getting better.

Q5: How do you suggest a company responds if it encounters customer resistance to using social media to interact?
MO: Social shouldn’t replace all other channels; it needs to augment them and be there for the customers that want it. But, by the same token, you still need to have other channels for people with different preferences. In the same way that banking apps haven’t replaced branches, they are just another offering for a particular type of customer that wants it.

Q5: Do you think we will see a return to the old voice-based call centre model of customer relations in the future?
MO: I think the phrase “a return to” is a misnomer. We haven’t left voice-based call centres and I don’t think they are going away any time soon. Having said that, all data indicates that there is a definite move from voice-based to digital-based. But it won’t be a complete replacement — at least not for the next decade or so.

  • Find out more about Oelschig on LinkedIn.


Carey FinnCarey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to, her regular column “Q5” hones in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with inspiring professionals in diversive fields.

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