In a very short time, social networks have fundamentally changed the way many customers expect to interact with businesses writes Oracle’s Atul Tuli.
In recent years, if a customer had a support question, the person would typically refer to the support site and if, the answer wasn’t easy to find, call the contact centre. Now if a customer goes to the company’s support site or customer forum and doesn’t quickly get the answer, the satisfaction levels dip and the person will search elsewhere to see if others have encountered the same issue. At this stage, customers usually turn to social platforms or forums, which are the biggest source for such answers. The negative impact of dissatisfaction with the online experience cannot be overstated. If customers are not satisfied with the information they find when first arriving at a business website, they are more than twice as likely to visit a competitor’s site as they are to make a call to the company’s contact centre. Further, these customers are less likely to visit the site again to buy online from this organisation.
Reaching out to the customer
No one likes to reinvent the wheel. That is why when we as consumers run into issues, it is our natural inclination to try to find out if others have run into the same issue and what they did to resolve it. Given this, a company-sponsored customer forum can be a great focal point for customers. By creating a vibrant customer forum, an organisation will gain a lot of near-term and long-term benefits. A forum is where a lot of customers start when they need answers. When done right, company-sponsored forums can be the first and best place for customers to go when they want questions answered. With effective moderation, reputation models, and flexible control, customer forums can deliver significant value to the enterprise and customers alike. Organizations can also gain a wealth of insights that can be leveraged to foster improvements in product development, quality control, marketing, and other areas of the business as well.
‘Findability’ is key
Even without social networks in the picture, the challenge of navigating server directories, intranets, websites, e-mail folders and other resources to find useful information can be daunting. Customer forums and other social networks added into the mix can threaten to overwhelm internal and external users with noise, rather than come across as meaningful information.
To meet this challenge, organisations need sophisticated search capabilities that derive the true intent from each search. This requires search capabilities very different from those employed by web search platforms such as Google or Yahoo!. To derive a search as true intent, organisations need enterprise knowledge management that features an integrated combination of natural language processing, information lifecycle management, and analytical insight into user behaviours.
Building brands with social media
Social Media also provides a dais for organisations to connect and interact with their stakeholders directly and instantly. With a large user base, consumers leave vital piece of information with each like or comment on the various social media channels. Amassing such information can furnish new insights for brand management.
Marketers need to adopt a further strategic form of communications rather than just spamming customers or prospect customers. This can be manoeuvred through communication leadership via forums, portals and even company websites. Being on a digital platform, means working on quick turn-around time and responsive customer communication. A consistency need to be maintained around messaging. Furthermore, when companies engage with customers openly on social media, they fortify a certain level of accountability.
To sum up, organisations can view the proliferation of social networks as a threat or an opportunity. It can be seen as a threat because of the seemingly endless new data streams social networks generate that needs to be sifted and processed for the information that is useful. However, enterprises need to approach social networking as a huge opportunity – a new way to communicate with and learn from customers in a mode that customers have embraced. By interacting with customers in their familiar mode, organisations can realise significant improvements in not only customer service but also product development, quality assurance, marketing, and virtually every other area of the business. By taking a strategic, knowledge based approach, organisations can most fully leverage the potential of social networks to truly enhance the customer experience and improve business performance.