Social Media: Opportunity or Threat?

Daniel Ziv

The social media phenomenon is proving to be one of the most powerful forms of communication impacting brands. Customers are sharing thoughts on products and services, good and bad service experiences, and much more. This new social "word of mouth" is the number one decision factor of 20-50 percent of all customer decisions. Furthermore, social networking is most influential for first time buyers or when products are relatively expensive-the most important transactions for most organizations.

Facebook has more than 500 million global users, and Twitter has seen over 20 billion "tweets" of which 20 percent are estimated to be related to product and services requests. There is a shear mass of consumer-generated information that transpires and increasingly influences buying decisions. Marketing departments no longer own their corporate brands… the customers do!

This can pose a threat especially for organizations that have spent years building their brand. For a customer-centric enterprise, capturing and mining this new social voice of the customer is critical, yet separating the insights from the ‘noise" may be a daunting task. Once something goes social, it’s very hard to control.

In this race to mine the voice of the customer, some organizations overlook the vast amount of direct customer feedback already available. Speech analytics and text analytics mine most sources of unstructured data, bringing great value to an organization by taking the data available through the customer-facing contact center and turning it into actionable business intelligence. Analytics enables companies to look beyond what is happening across the customer service discipline to why it's happening.

With this unbridled insight, organizations can anticipate business issues; make necessary adjustments to products, services and processes; respond to emerging trends and capitalize on opportunities before issues go social. In much the same way enterprises leverage analytics for structured data, they can similarly mine their internal unstructured voice, video and text to gain invaluable customer intelligence.

Achieving a True 360-Degree View

Combining social media content with actual customer interaction recordings can serve as a powerful tool today as organizations brand and develop new product and services. This information can be compared to trends anticipated in the social sphere to identify possible impacts and outcomes. In situations like these, uncovering trends in internal data-like those generated during phone conversations in the contact center-can act as an early warning system for customer issues that may eventually appear in the social domain.

Add to that the power of customer feedback, which can be both positive and negative in nature. Most customers go through the contact center when they first have an issue or want to voice a complaint about a product or service. This customer intelligence can help the enterprise address problems before they turn into widespread, public issues. Customer behavior indicator tools help predict and identify trends before they find their way into the public realm.

These tools track every word and phrase identified in customer conversations, and automatically alert to any changes in specific terms that are increasing or decreasing rapidly-indicating a potential change or new trend in customer behavior. With such data leveraged, organizations can better prepare and empower themselves by anticipating potential customer service disasters that spill onto the social web.

Missing New Opportunities?

Customer behavior indicators can help enterprises discover trends that articulate the things a company or department is doing well. Positive customer intelligence can help identify new business opportunities, align marketing efforts to complement customer preferences and gain insight on business performance. These interactions are chalked full of intelligence that businesses can put to work for them if they collect, analyze and take proactive action.

When the term "clunkers" started bubbling every weekend at a large insurance company’s call center, it provided an opportunity to staff a call center accordingly and offer special promotions linked to the "cash for clunkers" government campaign. This campaign represented an estimated $350 million worth of new annual insurance. Not something that comes by every day, but when it does you want to be first to jump on.

Separating Insight from the Noise

Analyzing information from social networks can uncover what is public, while internal interactions can help distinguish one-off anecdotes from widespread problems. Mining internal customer interactions, such as phone calls and emails, can determine the magnitude, key factors and levels of frustration associated with respective issues.

For example, a company that receives a significant number of calls on a single topic in which frustrations and emotions associated with these interactions run high. This is very likely a symptom of a much larger problem. On the other hand, if a particular issue is mentioned in the social media-sphere, but is very rarely found within internal customer service interactions, it may simply be a one-time matter that diffuses over time.

The key to harnessing the power of customer intelligence generated on social networks in combination with inbound channels is to have a comprehensive social business strategy. Contrary to conventional thinking, an effective social business strategy starts in the contact center-a central hub for resolving customer complaints before they make their way into the online public domain. As several companies have learned, social media information can spread instantaneously, reaching more people than ever before.

It has become increasingly important to listen carefully and take rapid action on customer issues and complaints both inbound into the contact center and externally in social channels by mining these interactions to identify changes in behaviors and satisfaction. Customer service and contact center operations must be integrated and equipped with the backend tools to share customer intelligence and other vital business enterprise-wide.

Such intelligence can reside in many systems and silos throughout an organization and provide vital insight into what’s working, where key issues lie, and how to address them. Effective internal processes, backed by the right tools and powered by a customer-centric culture, pave the way to turning goldmines of data and business intelligence into actionable intelligence; newfound views into customers’ wants and needs; more effective multichannel customer service; and a stronger online and social media presence.