One of the most significant trends in customer engagement over the last three years is the rise of social media outside marketing and inside customer service. Social media is moving beyond contacts and interactions to a culture of community and collaboration for the most engaged and customer-centric companies.
More than 23 percent of consumers from the age of 18-32 prefer social media when learning about products. Consumers are no longer relying solely on the traditional channels of phone and email. They are interacting online with peers over sponsored communities and over the public cloud via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Consumers and consumer groups are setting up social media and other online advice services themselves. Approximately 83 percent of consumers tell their friends if they get a good deal, demonstrating that the demand for advice from fellow customers is present and strong enough for consumers to act to enable this type of advice.
In the financial sector, for instance, more than 12 percent of consumers turn to blogs and almost 7 percent use other forms of social media as a resource for advice.
Social is more than an interaction, or transaction, it is a culture. Social is an approach to doing business in a more interconnected way. Social media is becoming the answer for crossing functional and departmental barriers and for collaborating as one business. Social media is the answer to getting that one contact who comes in once a year connected to the one person in the company who has the experience and insight to provide the right insight at the right time. Social is a philosophical belief that more people working together is better than one person working alone.
Follow these five steps to establish a customer engagement strategy:
1. Keep an Ear to the Cloud: Companies that fail to monitor the conversations unfolding on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Instagram and other social networks are missing critical opportunities to address concerns and turn criticism into advocacy. Put the technologies and teams in place to listen to your customers and identify opportunities to create buzz, build loyalty, and resolve issues proactively.
2. Develop a Strategy and Implement it Quickly: Social media strategies require sufficient planning, but time-to-market is equally important. Accept that there will be several unknowns, as the social media landscape is still under development. If you try to mitigate every conceivable risk factor, you will likely miss out on several customer opportunities.
3. Achieve and Maintain Executive Buy-In: Reach out to C-level executives early in the planning process. Ask for their involvement and support; communicate the need to put together a cross-functional team of social media “champions” from relevant departments – sales, marketing, customer service, corporate communications, IT – that will closely collaborate on social media initiatives.
4. Collaborate with Other Departments: Find out about their current and planned social media customer initiatives to better understand how it can impact your organization. Feedback is a two-way street. Share your implementation plan roadmaps to understand key dependencies. When possible, take a joint, collaborative effort to project planning, implementation, support and continuous improvement methodology.
5. Manage the Entire Social Lifecycle: Once your social media strategy is implemented and underway, expand your capabilities to cover all aspects of the engagement lifecycle, including:
o Building online customer communities/forums
o Handling inbound social media contacts
o Handling outbound/proactive social media customer contact
o Campaign management, knowledge management, reporting and analytics
o Continuous improvement methodology
If your social media engagement increases beyond your internal capabilities, consider leveraging your contact center partner to scale your operations and expertise.
Social networks and community forums are very visible channels for customers to share and discuss experiences they have had with a company. Companies that understand this and establish a social media strategy are better prepared to quickly address customer issues. A proactive and speedy response helps improve customer experience, increase brand loyalty and potentially diffuse the negative impact of any bad customer experiences.