Last year, Forrester released a report stating that we’ve entered a new era which they refer to as “the age of the customer”. Unlike the previous ages of “manufacturing”, “distribution” and “information”, the age of the customer – which Forrester loosely defines as post-2010 – refers to a new business environment where customers are increasingly in control and organisations need to deliver the best customer service in order to maintain a competitive advantage.
In the past, brands typically used social media as another outbound marketing tool to push marketing messages onto consumers. Customers, however, had different ideas and started using the new tools of on-site reviews and social media networks to communicate their frustration with poor customer service. Finally, brands are beginning to take notice and are implementing strategies to address customer issues and complaints.
Between March and June 2013, the Aberdeen Group surveyed 289 companies on the key trends and activities impacting their contact centre programmes. They found that adoption of social customer care programmes increased approximately five fold between 2010 and 2013 (with a 12% in 2010 and a 59% in 2013). The survey also found that 70% of companies surveyed that had not already adopted social customer care programmes were planning on doing so in 2014.
The reason why these organisations are increasingly adopting social customer care programmes is largely due to the fact that customers are more empowered than ever before. They can access information on numerous companies and products at the touch of a button, and social media channels provide the ideal conditions for customers to share their experiences with each other, whether positive or negative, which in turn has a huge effect on purchase and repeat buying patterns of consumers. So businesses that previously paid lip service to customer care are now having to deliver on their promises or risk being exposed by disgruntled customers.
The study also found that businesses that had adopted social customer care programmes out-performed those that had not yet done so, particularly in relation to customer retention.
Furthermore, businesses that analysed users’ social media activity and used the data to allow their customer care staff to personalise the customer care experience experienced significantly higher growth than companies that did not collect or use social data in this way.
The researchers went on to analyse best-in-class capabilities of successful customer-centric businesses, which included utilising customer-generated social media conversations to measure agent performance, tracking the effectiveness of different social media portals, automatically routing customers to the most relevant agents and providing agents with a detailed view of an individual customer’s interactions (including up-to-date social media activity).
For brands that have a global presence, having a a social customer care programme is even more important as it allows companies to collect consumer behavioural data relatively quickly and cheaply. This data can be used to make decisions regarding expansion into other culturally similar regions.
These insights highlight the importance of international social media monitoring and CRM strategies that take social media activity into account when collecting and storing customer profile information. Although implementing a social customer care strategy may involve a significant investment depending on the size and complexity of your organisation, the question is not whether your business can afford the investment but it if it can afford not to invest.