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What’s A Company Like You Doing In A [Social] Place Like This?

By Margot Heiligman, SAP CRM Solution Management and Hansen Lieu, SAP CRM Solution Marketing

Do you have a team listening to what is being said about your company on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and discussion forums?  Better yet, are your social savvy responding to the customer service requests, or to feedback you can share with your product organization or to opportunities which may be routed to your sales colleagues?  Are they responding to the customer in the appropriate social channel – within its norms of response time – accurately?

“A Company Like Me”

It’s very likely a company will engage in the customer service scenario described above, according to the third edition of the Social Customer Engagement Index, a study conducted by Social Media Today and sponsored by SAP. Chances are growing that customers will use a channel other than a phone call or in-person and instead opt for a social media channel for service, whether Twitter, an online forum, a Web site or a social networking site such as Facebook.  SocialCRM thought leader Paul Greenberg of the 56 Group, who wrote the foreword to this study report, describes “a company like me,” as how consumers engage with companies through commonalities – such as social engagement channels.

The study, which polled 578 respondents, sought to better understand what motivates companies to integrate social tools and processes into customer service and engagement, as well as the impact these activities are having on response times, engagement methodologies, and the customer relationship. It compared results based on company size, length of experience, level of satisfaction and other factors.

Key Findings

Adoption of social media as a channel for serving and engaging with customers is accelerating, and it looks like there’s no turning back. Over a third of respondents (34%) said their company has gathered two-plus years of experience using social media tools for customer service, compared with 20.3% in 2011. Even more dramatic is the increase in the percentage of customer inquiries being addressed over social channels. The number of companies handling greater than 25% of customer service inquiries via social media doubled this year, growing to 18% from 9% last year. The number of companies handling fewer than 5% of customer inquiries over social channels decreased to 41%, down from 56%.

The growth in social customer service is not without its challenges, however – challenges that really to need to be addressed for companies to move from one-off efforts to use social tools and techniques, to a scalable and sustainable approach integrated with their overall customer service systems and processes. This more holistic approach is the difference between, say, delighting one customer with a really fast response to a tweeted cry for help and consistently engaging with a large population of customers, whether they reach you through Facebook, Twitter or your own hosted Web forum.

Not Without Its Challenges

The number one challenge, according to nearly half (48%) of respondents, is resource allocation. We believe the most efficient way to overcome resource constraint is to leverage all the knowledge that exists both within and outside the company to address customer issues that arise. This can happen by enabling unprecedented levels of collaboration among communities of employees, business partners, customers and anyone with knowledge and experience that can offer insights, answers and, ultimately, resolution to customer requests, complaints and needs.

With platforms of collaboration, service reps can quickly engage the right resources to assist with issues raised and, importantly, respond to customers within the expected time window and via their channel of choice. Collaboration resolves the number one inhibitor to responding quickly to customers, named by 41% of respondents: finding the right answer to questions, as delays can be caused by the need to seek guidance from other parts of the organization in order to answer. And collaboration can also help spread the knowledge gained through social media to other parts of the organization, to enhance wider learning, rather than embedding these learnings in a small core team of experts.  In essence, collaboration enables social teams to scale and serve your customers.

Social-based customer service and engagement is clearly no longer just a trend – it’s a reality of doing business today. At SAP, we think “social first” – this type of interchange is the way we strive to work and engage with our customers and our colleagues, daily.  A strong first step toward a holistic social service strategy is gaining an acute understanding of how some early adopters are succeeding – and failing – in their social initiatives.

Get your copy of the “Social Customer Engagement Index 2012” here which also includes case studies from Best Buy, Dell, Jet Blue and L. L. Bean, in addition to analysis from leading experts, in order to provide additional context around the raw numbers.  PivotCon has published an Infographic about the study results.  Enjoy!

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