We caught up with Sarah Grace McCandless, Vice President of Customer Engagement & Brand Advocacy at Clearlink, a SYKES company, to find out more about the use of social media in times of crisis.

In the current environment, social media is playing a pivotal role in customer communications across all aspects of the journey, from brand awareness and acquisition to service, retention, and advocacy. With many industries including retail forced to close brick and mortar locations, there’s a tremendous shift towards e-commerce and digital resources. This presents a big opportunity for the use of social media.

Many of our social teams, covering both customer service and brand engagement activities, have worked remotely for some time now, with significant and successful impact and results.

Of course, not all businesses have worked in this way so far, and need to improve the level of flexibility across all areas of their customer service model.

What are the benefits and challenges of social media in a crisis?

Straightforward to set up

Compared to other elements of customer service, social media is relatively easy to set up, even in a Work At Home (WAH) environment. Most of the time, working on social means logging in to the conversation management platform and this doesn’t change if agents are working in-centre or from home. The same provisions, security, and restrictions are in place through the platform, making it a pretty seamless move from the business to the home. There is no need for people to connect through telephony or in-centre servers.

Hiring Pool

When you take social media support and brand engagement to a home-based model, the recruitment pool changes. Companies can tap into more talent and bring in folks with different areas of social expertise, or those with a passion for a brand or industry. They would act more as brand ambassadors than a typical support agent would.


While the number of calls that can be taken in a period of time can increase by adding people, phone calls can only ever be handled one at a time by a person, no matter what. When it comes to digital, this is not the case – with web-based chat, for example, there can be 2+ chats open at one time. The greatest concurrency, however, is delivered by social or messaging, where multiple engagements happen at the same time.


From a security and compliance perspective, there are no significant differences. Social teams work by logging in to systems, and have a restricted set of permissions. Even with clients in a regulated sector, such as healthcare or financial services, colleagues don’t typically deal with sensitive information through social channels. So social is better suited to some interactions than others.

Team management and care

How do you maintain team dynamic, connection, and communication in a virtual environment, like the one we’re working in now? We’re fortunate to have solid experience and precedent on this front, as an organization that’s long offered WAH solutions, as opposed to suddenly scrambling to figure out how to make the business fit a WAH scenario.  These programs have always included considerations for training, coaching, and team building through a virtual lens, though during crisis, dialling up wellness resources for digital specialists may also be warranted.

During crisis, it’s also even more important than ever for our brand partners to be proactive, transparent, and consistent with communications with their consumers, but that approach needs to be reflected in our internal communications, too.

Looking to the future

Moving forward, we’re going to see proactive social listening becoming the norm rather than the exception. If brands want to get ahead, particularly in the event of a crisis, they can learn a lot from social listening. – whether it’s how their brand is being talked about, how competitors are being talked about, or even how brands in other verticals are managing communications. Also, consumer expectations of a personalized customer experience will continue to rise, with urgency, and the digital space is key to delivery of this.

To find out more about SYKES’ social media CX solutions, including how brand engagement can support and enhance your customer service provision, both in-centre and work-at-home, get in touch.

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