The recent launch of a banking app that enables consumers to send and receive money via social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp shows how social media is driving business processes in India. Not only that, it illustrates our movement from a transaction-led to a conversation-led economy. Today, social media is not only driving the creation of product offerings like social banking that harness its network, it is also playing an increasingly dominant role in shaping perceptions of consumers towards certain product categories and brands.
Earlier, if a customer was unhappy with a company’s product or service she would stop engaging with the company again, or at worst would tell her friends and family about her experience. But today customer feedback on social media brings the product or service under the close scrutiny of millions of internet users. Consequently, customer relationship management (CRM) is no longer limited to data and information; companies now deal with people and conversations. This has given rise to social CRM where real-time customer problem resolution and active engagement is the key to brand loyalty.
Customer is the king yet again
Data reveals that as many as 76% of e-commerce consumers rely on peer recommendations while only 15% rely on company advertisements. Given that an average person on Facebook has about 150 friends, every individual story or review posted has a viral potential of 150x. Further, with as many as 58,000 Indian users being added to the social network every day, the opportunity is amplified to unimaginable proportions. Not only is the expected speed of response very high, the chances of a negative comment going viral, poses a significant reputation threat. Add to this the fact that their feedback and comments remain in cyber space almost forever and it becomes all the more dangerous. Further, companies need to manage their relationship with a diverse range of customers.
While devising a customer relationship strategy on social media, there are fundamental rules that organisations ought to bear in mind:
* Uniformity of interaction across all platforms is essential. Organisations cannot afford to alter their messaging across platforms. In fact, a resourceful approach in content curation is required to reinforce the brand position and thought leadership.
* Listening on a real-time basis to all online conversations will help in understanding customer sentiments. Any negative conversation needs to be addressed immediately or handled offline while any positive mention about the brand needs to be amplified.
* Social CRM can be used as a tool for business and sales generation. Any query on a particular product or service category can be used to convert it into a sales lead. Thus, a robust social media presence across platforms helps in listening to consumer discussions and driving sales.
* Being present in various social and online discussion forums helps in building brand trust and loyalty. Thus, social CRM should be used as a tool for sharing knowledge and educating customers. In this manner, long term ‘like’ ability for the brand and sales conversions can be driven.
* A key strategy of social CRM is for businesses to behave in a ‘humble’ and ‘open’ manner; the brand has to conduct itself just like the consumer with empathy and honesty. Often brands try to hide behind corporate discourse or standard elements of customer replies—that may actually backfire in social media.
* Analytics and the ability to ‘slice and dice’ big data is critical to success for a social CRM project; thus, consumer behaviour analysis, sentiment tracking (positive, negative, neutral), etc., is the key to understanding the social behaviour of a consumer or group. This helps in ensuring the right engagement and communication from the brand.
* Social CRM should not just limit itself to responding to customer comments, it should listen with an intent to generate insights that can be used to improve service standards and come up with new product solutions.
* Engage regularly with customers who recommend your brand on social media because their words count more than the company’s own words.
With an estimated 197 million social network users in India by 2017 – social CRM is a business imperative. The elementary purpose of social CRM, like traditional CRM, continues to be meeting customer expectations, ensuring customer satisfaction and ultimately building customer loyalty. However, it is different in terms of magnitude, reach and accessibility. With social CRM, companies can gain insights by knowing what customers are saying about them online, leading to better analysis of their priorities and better service development.
The author is director and head – product solutions management, Max Life Insurance