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How to increase customer engagement through social media

How to increase customer engagement through social media

By Joe Doyle, VP Global Marketing, Sitel

Social media is rapidly emerging as the next big frontier for customer care. There are millions of customer interactions taking place every day on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter as well as a vast number of customer support forums and online communities.

Increasingly, current and prospective customers are using social media to communicate about the products and services they buy or intend to buy instead of contacting the companies who offer the products and services. This trend reflects a fundamental shift from predominantly company-customer interactions to customer-customer interactions that influence company-customer relationships.

Companies that are committed to customer service can’t afford to ignore social media. Customers are increasingly posting their queries online rather than going directly to a company via the phone or email which means there is always the risk of missing important feedback.  Enabling customers to provide feedback in the ways that are most convenient to them allows businesses to continuously improve customer relationships.

Social media is an important enterprise-wide phenomenon that impacts several business functions including sales, marketing, customer service, product development, corporate communications and PR, and employee communication and collaboration. Organisations should follow these five steps to establish a customer engagement strategy:

1.    Plan well and act soon. Social media strategies require sufficient planning, but time-to-market is equally important. Accept that there will be several unknowns. If you try to mitigate every conceivable risk factor, you will likely miss out on several customer opportunities.

2.    Social Media listening. Engage a social media listening vendor or service to better understand where your customers are online and what they are saying about your company and your products and services. This will help you develop social media strategies based on data-driven insights.

3.    Obtain and maintain executive support. 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 organisation. Feedback is a two-way street. Share your implementation plan roadmaps to understand key dependencies. Where possible, take a joint, collaborative effort to project planning, implementation, support, and continuous improvement methodology.

5.    Explore vendor solutions. Ask your contact centre/CRM vendors about their social media customer support capabilities. Key capabilities to explore include:
o    Monitoring social media conversations about your company’s products or services
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

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, internally or in conjunction with their contact centre partner, are more 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.

To learn more about how to become social as a business, attend the UTalkMarketing's Digital Brand Strategy Summit on 22 November, 2011. Register here.

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