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Interview: How social media revolutionalises customer relationship

Zafar Anjum | May 6, 2013
Customers are feeling more enabled for the first time as more consumers adopt social media as an outlet for airing issues. The consequence has been nothing short of a consumer relationship revolution. Spence Mallder, senior vice president, general manager workforce optimisation and chief technology officer, of Aspect, elaborates.

In 2008, they launched a website called "My Starbucks Idea" that allows users to submit their creative ideas and thoughts about Starbucks that can be voted on by consumers. Subsequently, they launched a blog called "Ideas in action" which gives updates on actions taken on the most popular ideas. A month later, Starbucks launched another site called "Starbucks volunteer to volunteer" which is a community for collaboration and discussion. With Starbucks becoming a model in using social media, many companies are trying to replicate its processes in order to achieve similar success.

Are they doing it the right way? Can the process be improved?

Though a large percentage of organisations are constantly evolving and formalising their social media strategies to get the maximum benefits of this vastly influential medium, they face tough challenges when it comes to tying social investments back to the bottom line - measuring its effectiveness, linking social media efforts to ROI, and understanding the concrete difference social efforts make to the business. While they understand social media can be a powerful tool, most executives still aren't sure how powerful it is.

The best users understand that social media is a dialogue, not a monologue. Very few companies effectively use social media to interact with customers by creating online customer groups and monitoring trends. Some of the best social media savvy companies are twice as likely to use social media to research new products and meet customers where they already are, using four or more social media channels - including multi-media sharing, review sites, discussion forums, and blogs. 

Social platforms should not be seen as a mere self-serving channel for disseminating product and service information but a two-way channel that can amplify a company's ability to deliver differentiated customer experience. Treating social media as a two way channel helps foster the kind of long-lasting customer loyalty that grows bottom line results.

Interestingly, there are now tools available, such as Aspect Social, that allow companies to efficiently manage social dialogues with customers on a large scale basis.

Are there any security or privacy issues involved in this process?

Such issues have been slowly gaining a lot of attention in the light of recent events such as the hacking of Burger King's Twitter account. The company's logo had been replaced by a McDonald's logo, and rogue announcements began to appear. A day later, the Twitter account for Jeep was taken over by presumably the same hackers that hacked the Burger King account.

The question is - do brands place the same policy and security standards for social feeds as they do to website access? But with more and more brands relying on social networking for communication, the need to have adequate layers of security and account integrity becomes more important for customer communications. We need to be able to trust the messages from the brands we follow.


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