The Role of Social Media to Drive Down Costs and Increase Loyalty Heats Up

Why service providers should assess the role of social media today.

In the quest to attract and retain the most valuable customers, we’re seeing an increasing number of service providers leverage the popularity of the Internet to engage and provide customer care. With no other place is this more prevalent than where their subscribers spend most of the time: in social media networks. In fact, one out of every six minutes spent online are spent on a social network (comScore) and 73 percent of the US internet population visits Facebook each month. And it’s not just the kids - according to a breakdown of Facebook’s figures, the fastest growing demographic is women over 55 years – demonstrating that communication service providers (CSPs) need to pay attention to this very active and interactive crowd.

Looking beyond their followers, CSPs should analyze the broader social community to identify and engage these active customers before they become unhappy and decide to leave for the competition. To some extent this is happening today. Discussing with a friend last week, he mentioned that he now turns to Twitter whenever he has a complaint or compliment, knowing that there is a person (or teams of people) monitoring their Twitter feed, on guard for any red flags. We agreed that in most cases, customers may just want to ask for directions to find information or in the case that they are dissatisfied - all they want is to have their complaints acknowledged. Social media can provide a swift response for these types of enquiries, and also divert calls away from the costly customer care center. But there is an opportunity for CSPs to take it a step further and engage with their customers with relevant advice and recommendations. This requires seamless information flow between their billing and customer care solution and the social network sites. Customer care agents can then link to the affected subscriber’s account and usage information, identify any issues and quickly resolve them. Social media networks are also becoming another home for self-care applications and customer forums, where customers can raise questions and get them answered. Today O2 UK, for example, enables subscribers to top-up directly from Facebook. And with the launch of Facebook’s App Center in the next few weeks, this will become even more prevalent. In the case of customer forums, an equally important benefit of social media is that it provides a venue for your customers to champion your brand on your behalf. With the ability to directly identify your brand champions, CSPs can then reward them with personalized promotions or complementary upgrades. The impact is not only on your subscribers’ experience but also on your overall reputation.

In an era where customer satisfaction is vital, social networks provide a very active avenue for quick and personalized communication with your subscribers. Done right, service providers will reduce costs, prevent churn and provide a better customer experience – adding value to the operator’s goal to increase customer satisfaction. When an estimated 72 percent of respondents use social media to research a company's reputation for customer care before making a purchase – the question should be: how long can service providers survive without integrating social media into their billing and customer care solution? 

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