Engaging the customer through social media integration
By Pommie Lutchman, CEO at Ocular Technologies.
More than ever, companies need to find new ways to distinguish themselves from their competition. To win more customers, they need to create a unique customer experience, and must command consumer attention in increasingly innovative ways.
"The fact is, creating inventive ways to consistently deliver a superior customer experience is not just a survival skill - it has become the key to a thriving enterprise," says Pommie Lutchman, CEO at contact centre solutions provider, Ocular Technologies.
"A means of accomplishing this is to embrace social media in the business environment, and to strategically integrate appropriate social media channels into daily customer interactions in order to captivate customers in a much more intuitive and organic way."
But, as with any business, there has to be a solid business case - ROI needs to be understood and packaged with the approach to social media. To accomplish this, the following key aspects need to be considered:
* Correct routing of interactions;
* Tracking of activities;
* Continuous evaluation and improvement;
* Social and social media strategy; and
* Rules for constructive social engagement.
"If these key aspects are correctly managed, focus will, by default, shift from an enterprise being reactive, to it being proactive and directly in touch with customer sentiment, ultimately enabling the enterprise to give customers what they actually want," says Lutchman.
According to Rob Tarkoff, CEO of Lithium Technologies, a provider of social customer experience management software for the enterprise, the real power of social media is its ability to engage and enlist, and not just tally - the result of this is that social media entices customers to interact with businesses.
This, however, presents a challenge: it is one thing to have a dialogue with a customer, but quite another thing to extract valuable information from a customer to be able to really understand what he/she wants.
For this reason, although it sounds like a contradiction in terms, if the utilisation of social media is embraced as a value optimisation medium within an enterprise, it must be structured.
This implies that the positioning of social media into a business process must only be done after due consideration and planning, and must be supported by a solid customer relationship management strategy and philosophy. Subsequently, staffing, quality management forecasting, contextualisation and performance management can be used to build the foundation upon which the use of social media is introduced into an enterprise.
"This being said, an enterprise will enter very dangerous territory if it professes to use social media as a medium of communication but does not support the approach with the use of the correct technologies, and if customers do not get actual direct feedback," says Lutchman.
"Considering the fact that consumers are more empowered, connected and vocal than ever before, it makes perfect sense that they use social media to express opinions and sentiment with unprecedented speed and reach."
This trend, combined with the fact that social media offers a much more organic sense of interaction, has resulted in consumer expectation changing completely: as opposed to the bygone days where communication was a one-sided affair being channelled via faxes, e-mails and hard-copy documentation. Social interaction has today become a reciprocal dialogue in which customers expect an immediate response and the confirmation that there is someone from whom a reaction can be elicited immediately.
"The result of this is that customers have come to expect a much more proactive approach in terms of conducting business, especially in the service sphere where customers want a sense of empathy to form the basis of the interaction. Of course, this is best expressed via social media," adds Lutchman.
Ultimately, social media enables a much more meaningful interaction between people than technology and other business communication means used only a short while ago - hence the change from social media interaction not being a luxury, but having evolved into being an expectation.
In terms of conducting business, this can of course be the recipe for a win-win situation: more traditional means of interacting with the customer must be traded for social media channels - else the result will be a rapid dwindling of customer interest.