This approach, he noted, leverages “the existing Aspect platform into social” and builds on the company’s experience. It’s also designed for fully integrated management so that “contact centers can manage multi-channel customer interaction.”

Freeze also highlighted Aspect Social’s unique integration across all channels, so that “customers never have to repeat themselves” if they've started their inquiry about a given issue via, say, email and then moved to phone or Twitter. A survey last June by intent-based solution provider Nice Systems, for instance, found that forty percent of customers expect contact center representatives to already know about their issue, even if they've initially come in through another channel. It also found that, on average, customers are using up to six different channels in customer service inquiries or requests.

Other companies echo this perspective. In an interview last November with, for instance, customer experience provider Kana Software’s CMO James Norwood said that the biggest thing happening in customer service is the “realization by companies that they need an omni-channel solution to the multiple channels.” When they work together and pass the “same context” to the customer, he said, “that’s the Promised Land.”

Customers Choose

Another theme that keeps coming up in discussions with those involved in integrating social media with customer interaction systems is that customers are driving the interaction. Freeze also emphasizes that point, noting that companies used to set up the channels by which they allowed interaction, such as phone or websites.

But now, Freeze pointed out, “if a company has chosen not to enable a channel, it doesn’t mean a customer won’t use it.” A company may choose to ignore Twitter, for instance, but customers are still free to issue tweets praising or condemning that company’s products.

A large difference from pre-social media days, he said, is that earlier channels were often private communications between a customer and the company, such as mail, email, phone, feedback via “contact us” on a website. But social media is different, frequently involving conversations with friends and strangers whether the company is involved or not.

Because of these new dynamics, Freeze said that “customer experience is going to increasingly become the province of the contact center,” adding that the experience needs to be “seamless, multi-channel,” provide one right answer, and have access to the data that’s been mined on that customer. In fact, a recent report by the Customer Contact Association similarly emphasizes the importance of customer experience aligning with customer service.

Aspect’s position is that social media requires contact centers to proactively notify customers for such purposes as informing about outages, changes in service or a problem resolution. In other words, “customer contact center” now means not only the place where customers contact the company, but where the company contacts the customers.