After a series of recent consumer-brand spats on social media, customer relationship management has become a major bone of contention for all brands. A major challenge that brands are facing today is the overlap of marketing and customer service in an ever-evolving business environment.
Marketers and customer service executives, across different sectors, often fail to understand the breadth and importance of good customer experience. And this is now being highlighted on social media, where customers have a direct way of grabbing the brand’s attention.
According Ankur Singla, founder and CEO, Akosha, India is one of the few countries that does not have a structured discourse around the subject. “We have met many individuals from various companies over the years that are tasked with looking after customer experience, and one of the things we found was that while they knew it was important, they were often lost when it came to building their brand around it,” says Singla.
According to Mohit Bhatnagar, managing director, Sequoia Capital, “With the explosion of devices, a lot of transactions are happening online. With 10-30 per cent of your customers coming from mobile, the challenge is these consumers are expressing themselves in the online world and companies are grappling with issues around it. It is clear that as the world gets connected and multiple channels open up to voice feelings and angst, the good and bad about a brand can no longer be swept under a carpet.”
“In the US, the single biggest trend we are seeing in value add is that as businesses try and deal with customers who express themselves on apps, Facebook and Twitter, it has become very important for enterprises to pull out and access feedback across all mediums and then almost on the fly analyse it, make sense of it and do something about it. This is a huge task as the amount of feedbacks is going through the roof. We are now increasingly seeing businesses that help enterprises deal with feedbacks on social network and beyond," he added.
“I see a lot of customers moving to social media, not necessarily to consume content but also to voice their opinion - positive or negative. Boundaries between marketing and customer service is blurring," says Groupon India CEO, Ankur Warikoo.
"Some brands would prefer to take the conversation offline, which has its own advantage, while some brands feel solving the issue then and there is more apt. In terms of percentage I feel about 75-80 percent of the brands prefer to take the conversation offline," says Singla.
“Brands do not want to wash their dirty linen in public and I think this will continue, but merely to manage that is fairly difficult. The other camp believes they have the wherewithal to sort out issues and they have the quality of the people needed to service customers. Many online brands have decided to own their voice and willing to do the interaction on social media. In large brands where feedback volumes are quite high, the first option may be better,” Singla pointed out.
Because of the cross-functional nature of customer experience, brands struggle with who should interact with the customer on a channel, which is both marketing and customer service.
Singla feels most brands are still caught in a time warp where they only expect customer experience to be communicated directly over a phone call. Social media and online channels are often ignored by brands. “Sometimes we feel brands do not appreciate how big or what impact customer experience holds. There are times when businesses question us over the fact that they get about 1000 calls, but maybe only about 200 feedbacks on social media and hence should they actually pay importance to social media? You have this situation where you have a lot of people online on social media and this trend will only grow bigger. If you have two percent of your customers expressing online, there is every possibility this number creeps up to 40 percent by 2017. Online companies have been faster in noticing trends and being proactive but I feel everyone should wake up to it,” says Singla.
Akosha recently held Quest, a customer experience management summit. The Panels were of the opinion that when messaging app like Whatsapp enters the space, feedback about brands will see a paradigm shift. “I feel once Whatsapp API hits the market, we will see a new avenue of customer expression,” says Warikoo.
“If Whatsapp starts removing limit on a group chat that currently stands at 50, you will soon start seeing customer cohorts that are either created by brands or by like-minded customers themselves. This I think can be the first step,” he added.
A brand is generally better during its startup days when it comes to customer experience. However, as it starts to expand, it often stumbles and customer experience sometimes flounders.
According to Singla, for brands there is little tangible benefit flowing out of a robust customer experience function. Product experience often overlooks customer experience. “We wanted to hold Quest to get all the stakeholders to discuss and determine how best to provide a good customer experience in a changing world where technology plays a vital part,” says Singla.
Brands, today, need to use of social media for generating leads, use of consumer touch points in retail from a branding perspective, creation of an MNC-level of customer experience for the consumer, incentivising marketing and customer service executives to think holistically and preventing customer issues.