Social Media for Business Benefit: The emergence and impact of social media on customer interaction

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1 Social Media for Business Benefit: The emergence and impact of social media on customer interaction A leadership perspectives white paper Recommended next steps for business and industry executives Issue 8 in a series

2 Executive Summary Almost everything online now incorporates some element of social media with people encouraged to share content, post comments, rate stories or products, and engage with an online community using social media tools such as Twitter, DiggiT, Delicious, Facebook, YouTube, Eventful or Google+. Very often the discussion will be about a brand, a product or a service; and frequently will feature customer support issues. The richness of social media data can give enterprises new insights into the way customers communicate with them. It is for this reason that currently most businesses are beginning to develop communication strategies specific to social media channels. They are starting to figure out how social media fits into the greater customer care puzzle. Business case overview What makes social media engagement by business daunting is the fact that it isn t a single channel but rather comprises a number of different channels, each with its own culture and its own engagement etiquette. Consumers and customers are using a variety of means to interact through social media, from their office or home PCs, while travelling with a tablet computer or roaming on a mobile phone, and increasingly from a private or public gaming kiosk. They also use a myriad of social media types: some popular and well-established, others niche or emerging. Keeping track of trends in this area can be a challenge. Six types of social media 1. Collaborative projects (e.g., Wikipedia), 2. Blogs and microblogs (e.g., Twitter), 3. Content communities (e.g., YouTube), 4. Social networking sites (e.g., Facebook), 5. Virtual gaming (e.g., World of Warcraft), and 6. Virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life). Technologies include: blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, , instant messaging, music-sharing, crowdsourcing and voice over IP. Many of these social media services can be integrated via social network aggregation platforms. Produced by du

3 The approach taken by organisations will be highly unique with each enterprise, depending on its vertical and its corporate culture. For instance, while some enterprises will be content with a dedicated social media response team, enterprises that have a large customer base on social media sites will need to scale up and start introducing customer service agents trained in social media communications. Soon we can expect to see call centre service providers and outsourcers start to provide a tiered set of agents, trained in written communications and more PRsavvy, though still qualified to provide customer care. Controlling the communication of customers on social media about the customer experience is becoming an interesting challenge. The success of businesses in the hospitality sector is increasingly being shaped by the comments about customer experiences that are posted onto social sites such as TripAdvisor or Expedia. Likewise, companies in retail, banking and fast-moving consumer goods are becoming sensitive to comments and opinion of customers and shoppers that are shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Public sector organisations are starting to monitor such channels as well now, to improve communication flows between and among citizens and public authorities and agencies. Some organisations actually respond to customers using social media formats, training employees to become specialists in customer interaction and working to turn negative sentiment about them or their products or services into a positive outcome. The function of these employees is all about protecting the brand and reputation of the organisation, product or service. But actually, the customer sentiments that can surface on these sites can help an organisation identify areas for focus and processes that can be improved in ways that make future customer experiences richer or better in some way. du was very quick to take up social media as a way of interacting with customers in new ways. Through developments like its Customer Excellency program, du continues to work to raise the quality of customer service and the level of interaction the company has with its consumer and business customers using specialist Facebook and Twitter response teams.

4 Understanding the potential of social media Enterprise/customer engagements over social media can be classified in two categories: promotional and transactional A promotional engagement is about preserving or solidifying the integrity of an organisation s brand. A transactional engagement is about servicing and supporting individual customers. These two categories are not mutually exclusive. A superior transactional engagement that takes place in the public sphere can, after all, strengthen an enterprise s reputation. But enterprises need to understand the tone and etiquette appropriate for each occasion. The line between these two types of engagement is not always clear: certain social media channels (Facebook, more than any other perhaps) actually blur the line between marketing and service. Typically, customers dial a contact centre number for customer support because they need assistance or information. A cross-sell or up-sell opportunity might arise from that interaction but not always. Because Facebook represents a constant line of communication to an enterprise on a site where customers already congregate (as opposed to online communities, Twitter feeds, or official company websites, all of which customers have to consciously access), organic conversations tend to arise also. This is why social media-based marketing efforts often turn into opportunities to provide simple customer service. Brand build and brand protection on social media Facebook and Twitter are the main channels where customers expect to be able to reach out and get responses from enterprises. As enterprises begin active engagement, customers will realise that not all problems can be solved through Twitter due to its limited 140-character input. However, there will be scenarios where problems are addressed directly through Facebook via chat or private message especially given Facebook s incorporation of the HTTP Secure protocol. Enterprise Twitter profiles can be categorised is for service and support, for instance, lists job opportunities), corporate Facebook pages are more general. Actually, the immediate purpose of most corporate Facebook pages is to provide announcements for new products and deals. Additionally, the threaded comments that appear on each public Facebook wall tend to inspire discussion, which naturally leads to customer engagement and/or service requests. Because all responses are public, it is important that when a customer asks a question the response is of a nature that generates positive feelings about the brand. Produced by du

5 Complicated customer requests are typically moved to a channel that affords more privacy (either phone, , or Facebook s Messaging component). But it is particularly important to maintain active and swift customer engagement on Facebook due to the public and highly visible nature of correspondence. Though Twitter doesn t have the same number of unique users as Facebook, the public nature of the service means that posts have the potential to go viral. When people tweet, it s usually impulsive, related to an event that recently occurred. Often, emotion affects the tone and angry tweets can trigger a hive-mind effect in which multiple Twitter users retweet a post, causing the original tweet to go viral, extending to users beyond Twitter and, in rare circumstances, into the mainstream media. Thus, even though a company may have millions of Facebook followers compared to 10,000s Twitter followers, the latter is an important part of a brand s social media presence. Blog posts and customer reviews are worth monitoring, as well, to gauge general user sentiment and, in the case of blog posts, to identify potential brand advocates. These are, by and large, for the purpose of either marketing and/or damage control. It is not unheard of also, for enterprises to respond to posts on well-read blogs, or to monitor customer statements on sites like Amazon.com or Yelp. Social media and the customer support experience Despite the hype around social media and social media integrations into the customer support operation, how popular is it as a customer service tool? One survey of more than 500 consumers in the US, revealed that social media is far from the preferred channel for customer service currently. In fact, it ranked below paper mail. Phone call Web chat In a physical store or branch Automated touchtone system Web self-service Automated speech recognition system SMS/text messaging Paper mail Social media Fax Video 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% Percentage of respondents N=520 But to what extent will customers use social media for customer support in the near future? Approximately one-third of respondents believe they would begin using social media for customer support to connect with a customer service representative (CSR) via web chat or to connect with other customers to resolve issues, likely in online communities. Organisations too, are starting to realise the potential of social media as a viable channel to support customers. In fact, the constant availability of organisations with social media presence and the transparency that comes with each public interaction offer numerous opportunities to provide support while improving public perception of the brand.

6 Arguably, the reason more customers do not see social media as a viable channel for customer service is because, at this point, very few enterprises offer social customer service. And the social customer service that does exist usually through micro-blogging service Twitter currently is not always as efficient as phone- or -based service. I am not likely to use social media for such activities Connect with a CSR via web chat Connect with other customers to help resolve a product or service issue Access a product FAQ document Provide companies with ideas for improvements in their products or services Connect with a CSR through click-to-call/phone Rate product: FAQs or help documents in a forum so the service can be improved 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Percentage of respondents So social customer service represents an immense opportunity for an enterprise to seamlessly blend social media into customer service. Software and service providers offer point solutions specifically for enterprises that want to monitor and analyse online chatter in a social environment. Most have a marketing or market research focus, though they are gradually expanding their solutions to encompass customer service applications. The specifics of the solutions available on the market differ significantly from vendor to vendor. Universally, they all offer monitoring and analytics, though some providers focus on Facebook and Twitter whereas others incorporate RSS feeds and online communities. Scalability is highly variable as well. Some vendors focus on expanding their platforms across the entire enterprise; others are focused on a single department. Additionally, not all vendors have engagement platforms or bridges which connect them smoothly with an organisation s installed CRM system. du professional services can help with this. There are significant benefits of social customer service for enterprises: Cost savings for the enterprise phone calls remain the most popular way to contact organisations. Queries that can be handled within the confines of social media are queries that won t add to call volumes. Similarly, context-driven queries that originate in social media can be routed intelligently and handled more efficiently and swiftly following escalation through or outbound voice call. Produced by du

7 Positive word of mouth social customer service gives an enterprise a very public forum to show that it is responsive and attentive to customer problems and needs. This will drive brand loyalty not just with the customer being assisted, but with all customers and potential customers witnessing the interaction. Enterprises worry about their mistakes going viral, but the opposite is true as well: exceptional service in the public sphere will be placed on a pedestal. Customers are already on it customers reaching out to an enterprise don t care which channel they go through; they only care that the enterprise responds and assists. The ubiquity of social media sites provides enterprises with an opportunity to reach out to customers in need of assistance and, at the least, direct them to a channel where they can get that help. Personalised customer care enterprises have been struggling to implement personalised customer care for years in the contact centre. Traditional barriers include technological and professional services costs and infrastructure changes. Social media, executed properly, provides a personable face to the enterprise. It is not personalisation in the traditional contact centre sense (i.e. context-sensitive interactions across all channels), but it provides a personal, one-to-one interaction over the Internet a channel that traditionally has not been particularly efficient for one-to-one interactions. Best practice for using social media in customer service Listen first. Understand what customers are saying and through which channels they are speaking. Determine interaction strategies for each social media channel. Identify when it is important to engage, when it is important to clarify misinformation, and when it is best to simply monitor without actively participating. Document these rules and educate service agents on strategies. Train customers where social customer service will be available e.g. set up a specific Twitter account dedicated to social customer care and shape strategy for these specific social media channels according to customer demand. Understand that social media is more than just Facebook and Twitter. Organisations can find significant engagement opportunities in online communities, both independent and corporateowned. Set goals. Understand how each social media channel fits into the greater customer service agenda. Plan for scalability both with the technology and in operations. Are the social media monitoring tools in place? Is the size of customer service agent teams capable of handling the increased number of social media communications expected to arrive within the next two years? Will the CRM system cope with the change? Just as enterprises currently identify customers by address or phone number, there is a need to align the often-anonymous handles people use online with genuine customers. Change the customer interaction process and include a request for a customer s Twitter handle or Facebook username for storage as part of the customer record in the company CRM. Transparency is crucial. Attempts to hide mistakes on social media will be noticed by online customers and the effects of that mistake will be magnified.

8 Conclusions Enterprises can begin by listening to online chatter about their products and services. They can either invest in a listening platform or use one of the numerous free third-party tools to do this. This is the easy part when it comes to implementing a social media policy. There is currently no lack of unstructured data on the Internet and accumulating it is not particularly difficult. Analysis is trickier because enterprises need to organise the data into actionable intelligence. At the top level, enterprises need to determine buzz namely, which brands online consumers are talking about and whether the sentiment around that recognition is positive or negative. This is mostly applicable for marketing. At the next level, enterprises wash this data through sentiment analysis to determine the context in which a given brand is being discussed (sentiment analysis), and how this context compares to competitor brands (competitive analysis). From here, enterprises will use this data for one or both of the following purposes: Marketing/public relations/damage control enterprises create ad campaigns and press releases based on online chatter. Enterprises also use social media to promote products and services. Market research enterprises develop products, services, and long-term corporate strategies based on online chatter and sentiment patterns. This top-level analysis, identifying patterns across a large population of consumers, works for marketing. But analysis for service-related queries needs to drill down even more enterprises need to find specific serviceable queries. In other words, analysis for marketing looks for patterns within a one-to-many environment. Customer service requires analysis at a one-to-one level. This is the eighth in a regular series of Leadership Perspectives White Papers, produced by du in association with Ovum, a preferred knowledge partner. For more information, please or visit Printed on environmentally-friendly paper produced from sustainable sources. Produced by du

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