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Guest Column: The changing rules of customer engagement in 2014

10-January-2014
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Guest Column: The changing rules of customer engagement in 2014

‘Data’, ‘social’, ‘analytics’, ‘mobile’, ‘CRM’ – the year 2013 was all about them. Organisations, telcos, solution providers, the government and every stakeholder has recognised the importance of these components for enabling business growth. The year 2014 will see these trends taking a step further, where consistent convergence will play the key role.

Customer presence in the online world is changing significantly and so are the basics of customer relationship management (CRM). CRM and marketing can no more be considered isolated functions. They now coexist under “customer engagement”, where having a ‘single view of customer’ has become increasingly essential. Enterprises and technology providers have been striving to enable ‘single customer view’ to ensure optimal customer service. However, with the increasing number of diverse digital platforms, making sense of the scattered customer data is a huge challenge for business today.

Based on the customer data present in various silos of IT environment and various social media platforms, a brand needs to create a ‘customer profile’ of its own. This profile should reflect what the customer wants, when he/she needs it and how would they like to receive it. Engagement with customers on social platforms has moved way beyond just ‘likes’ and ‘followers’.

Social CRM is about not only collecting and analysing customer data on digital platforms, but also making these social media platforms primary medium for providing service itself. Today’s customer is in the ‘Do it yourself’ phase, where they would prefer some autonomy in availing the service. They no more consider social channels just a medium for networking and entertainment. They are open towards using social media channels for making purchases and availing utility services. It’s no more just about gaining information and sharing feedback. It’s about creating quick, easy and convenient gateways for customer service.

Introducing an innovative method, recently a mobile operator company merged the mobile and social channels to allow its customers to use Twitter for a range of customer service enquiries. This Twitter self care service allows the customers of the mobile operator to use Twitter hashtags for the most common customer service enquiries. The shift in the consumer behaviour has made it essential for companies to take the next step into digitally led customer service in order to make it easier for customers to interact with a business. Another example of this would be the use of Facebook self care by operators.

Similarly, banks are also allowing customers to carry out various activities through social networking sites such as Facebook, thus leveraging social media as a platform to interact effectively and serve the customers.

The tremendous response received for such initiatives further strengthens the assessment that customers prefer unconventional and innovative methods of being served. It also implies that customers are providing consent to brands to tap their social presence if that can ensure better customer service. These social identities then become an integral part of creating ‘single view of customer’. The customer data collected from various other channels needs to be amalgamated with this data to provide a holistic yet detailed view of your customer.

This converged approach will not only help serve existing customers better, but also enable targeted engagement with potential customers. This will open up new avenues for customer acquisition for companies. It will prove to be a lot more effective than the ‘spray and pray’ promotional techniques usually used by companies.

The overall approach takes ‘customer engagement’ to a whole new level, where your customer (existing and potential) recognises and appreciates the customised service offered by the companies. They can differentiate between mass promotions and focused engagement based on analysis of their online and offline beahviour. Hence, it becomes imperative for businesses to make the most of the engagement opportunities presented by the social media world.

Sudarshan Dharmapuri, Vice President, Product Management, IMImobile.

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