January 18, 2012 / by Enrico Montana

A recent eMarketer research study indicates that companies who answer questions on social channels are more attractive to consumers. About 6 out 10 Twitter users would like to have businesses respond to their inquiries on Twitter. Two thirds of these Twitter users also indicated that having a business respond to them on social channels would make them more satisfied and more likely to make a purchase from that business.

Clearly, going the extra mile and proactively reaching out to customers with questions or issues on social channels can have a significant impact. Companies with social servicing programs are often written about, but there are some other applications for CRM such as using social data for lead generation, loyalty programs and a deeper understanding of customers that are also worth considering.

1. Social Servicing

Customer service via social channels has gained adoption as social media usage has become universal. Consumers are not shy about voicing their opinions and are quick to share experiences, both positive and negative, with their network. Social media monitoring and engagement tools help companies monitor what customers are saying about them. Customer problems or questions can be addressed in minutes or hours instead of days. With Visible’s new integration into Siebel you can even generate service requests for actionable posts and engage with consumers through your existing inbound service processes.

A few months ago I read an article that mentioned that many consumers use social channels as a last resort. Frustrated by more traditional channels such as calling customer service or attempting to get help via a Web site, they turn to their social network for help or to vent. While obviously not ideal to let things get to this point, socially savvy companies can turn things around. A co-worker recently told me about her attempt to get quotes for a cross country move from Seattle to the East Coast. She tried to call a few moving companies but was repeatedly put on hold for long periods of time. Her voicemails and emails were not returned. She was shocked and surprised that in a down economy she could not get a simple quote for a big ticket item like a cross-country move. She Tweeted about her dilemma to vent her frustration. To her surprise, a large moving company contacted her. She had not expected that companies in a fairly traditional industry such as long distance movers would be monitoring Twitter.

2. Lead Generation

Social insights can help provide a superior experience even before the individual is a customer. Monitoring for posts expressing purchase intent or interest in a product and responding by answering questions or sharing information about your product can turn a prospect into a loyal customer. Imagine that you are searching for a new tablet but have questions about feature differences and app availability between the Kindle Fire and the Nook. You send a post asking your Facebook friends. How impressed would you be if one of those retailers responded to your questions and pointed you to a feature comparison grid to help you make a decision? Using social media can help you exceed consumer expectations and create a new source of leads and revenue for your company.

By engaging with prospects you can also gather information such as what they care about, who is in their consideration set and how they make decisions. Armed with this information enables you to hone your product offerings and messaging and gives your business a considerable competitive advantage.

3. Loyalty Program Support

Loyalty programs have been successful in retaining customers and providing them with a reason to keep using your products or services. Social media is a natural extension to providing a superior customer experience to your most loyal customers. Many airlines provide their most frequent flyers with special phone numbers to call for customer service. But what about providing these frequent flyers with proactive support on Facebook, Twitter or on frequent flyer blogs? According to SimplyFlying, good customer support is the number one reason frequent flyers are loyal to a particular airline. Engaging with loyalty members on social channels is another way of maintaining that loyalty.

Other uses of social for loyalty programs include identifying potential loyalty program members from posts. It is a great opportunity to convert fans into loyalty programs members. With social media monitoring tools you can also get immediate feedback on enhancements to your loyalty program and track the impact of loyalty programs over time on customer sentiment.

4. Deeper Understanding of Customers

One often overlooked perk of adding social data to your CRM efforts is getting a more complete picture of your customers across all of your channels (A recent post on our blog touches on the importance of customer engagement.) Social interactions would supplement data gathered from retail transactions, email, call center and Web sites. Social exchanges can be cross-referenced with existing customer records for an aggregated view of customer contact history and records. Customer profiles can be infused with social data such as interests, memberships and demographics for a richer understanding of your customers.

This enhanced understanding of customers across channels helps deliver more personalized interactions so you can serve your customers better. Social media programs can no longer be practiced in silos — companies need to incorporate social media across the enterprise.  Integrating social with CRM provides an opportunity to enhance lead generation, customer support and problem resolution – activities that directly affect the bottom line of your core business.

Is your business using or building social media programs to get closer to your customers? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.


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