This blog was written by Oracle's Greg Robinson. Since Greg manages presales for Oracle in North America, he’s in a unique position to see what’s happening across the business and gain insight to what customers are doing in social today.
I’d guess that many of you reading this blog have thought at least once about how social media has changed our lives. Tweets are now flowing across the bottom of your television screens showing what the person on the show is saying on Twitter. The ratings that you see on products you buy on online commerce sites greatly influence your buying decisions. People that you've never met influence your choice of vacations and where you stay.
Particularly in the past 6 years, businesses have started to expand their strategies to include social media. And yet, social is still in its infancy. We’ve seen this before as various communication channels were introduced. The timeline below shows the various communication channels that we’ve adopted to over time (note: this is not meant to be all inclusive of every communication channel. Dates are based on key milestones since many of these technologies evolved over time.)
Many of these communication technologies have changed lives significantly, but social media has the biggest impact of them all. With one click of a button, thousands of people can see what’s being said about products, services, politics, sports, or anything else. Others can then respond or repost to this communication to their social networks, and so on, and so on...
Cancun, Mexico (copyright: Greg Robinson 2015)
Social touches everything, everywhere. No business is immune to social media no matter where they’re located. I’d like to share a personal story with you about how businesses are looking at social media and how it’s transforming the way business is done. My wife and I went to Cancun, Mexico and stayed at one of the highest rated (via social media) all inclusive resorts in Cancun – Live Aqua. While many of you have done similar things, here’s where it gets especially interesting. The waiter of one of the finest on premise restaurants noticed we were coming back night after night. He approached us and told us that the Executive Chef, Eric, likes to meet with guests. He asked if we’d like to meet Eric, and we agreed. Eric came to our table and introduced himself, and asked if we’d like to come back on Thursday to enjoy a special meal that he’d cook for us. After we left, I began to worry because I wondered what we really agreed to do. I was sure that a personal meal cooked by a world famous chef was not included in our all inclusive cost! We returned on Thursday and Eric was there waiting for us. He made a special meal as promised and it was delicious! He even brought out other chefs in charge of dessert because they made a special desert for us. Eric showed us an exceptional customer experience! I insisted on paying him in some way and Eric asked us for only one thing: He asked that if we truly enjoyed the resort that we go on social media and share our experience. That was all he asked. Instead of money, Eric felt that reviews on social media were more important for the resort.
The challenge for business is to harness social communication which ultimately helps define strategy to retain customers and drive revenue. What makes this especially challenging is how many of the social channels offer some form of privacy for users, whether it’s by privacy settings or not sharing user identity. Another challenge is the overall lack of awareness by most companies on what social can do for their business. Those in executive positions are often relying on millennials to help with social strategy. This gap in understanding and experience is an obstacle many businesses are looking to overcome.
Another challenge that we see is that many businesses want to run their social customer service operation like their call center. There’s a mindset with call centers. (I know because I owned a couple of them.) Call centers are one of the most measured business operations of all. In every call center there’s hundreds of metrics which measure call center agents down to the minute. There’s nothing wrong with measurement; if you don’t measure it you don’t manage it. So companies are dumping in hundreds and thousands of messages into their call center on a daily basis in order to get metrics that really don’t mean anything. It’s counterproductive to dump all social conversations into a call center, only to sift through each message to determine if you should respond. The activity and response numbers go up, the reaction time is high, but the efficiency is hit. Worst of all, it’s hidden!
Businesses need to get only relevant social information. By filtering social data through advanced listening technology, and then sending it into its customer service applications, you get leads you can use. Advanced listening technology such as Oracle’s Latent Semantic Analysis provides triple listening capabilities to provide such filtering. Social information needs to be actionable and relevant from both owned and earned channels to eliminate the need for unsuccessful manual filtering.
Social listening can enable a B2B to analyze what’s being said about their products (especially if sold through distributors), their industry, and their competitors. Social listening also enables B2B to identify trends which could help develop targeted marketing campaigns. Sales reps can also use social data from social listening to enhance their sales presentations to customers.
Social publishing is another key area for B2B. Businesses can use publishing capabilities to develop targeted marketing campaigns to their customers on Facebook and other social channels. In many cases B2B businesses already have a marketing tool where they create audiences and develop targeted email marketing campaigns; this is the social side of that use case. Social brings the targeted audience marketing campaigns to the social audience.
Social engagement is another critical area bringing social customer service to the forefront. This is especially helpful in reputation management. Think of this as an insurance policy. For example, let's say a customer makes oil drilling equipment. If we ever have another unfortunate oil spill, they want to be engaged in those conversations early and often. Social customer service will make this possible.
Social media also enhances events. Displaying tweets, photos, and videos at a trade show or conference makes it instantly interactive. Attendees can post and share photos about the event. This can influence the overall event by making people feel a part of it in ways they never could before.
Key to Success
There are certainly technologies available to capture unknown users as they use the internet in their daily lives, and they can provide valuable insight. The golden egg is getting customers and prospective customers to share their social identity. Businesses are thinking of creative ways to obtain this critical information from their customers through marketing and other promotions. Businesses also need to enhance their systems and processes to capture this critical information. In the 1990’s, businesses made enhancements to ERP and CRM systems to capture email addresses. The same is required in 2016; systems that capture customer data in tools such as sales force automation, customer service, and marketing must enhance these technologies to capture social media handles to enhance the contact record. While getting social identities is an important step, there’s another critical step that must occur – social data, not just contact information, must be included in the business processes and used in decision making. Social Relationship Management systems are not CRM systems; they don’t capture a user and determine how many interactions you’ve had with them in history. Instead, they need to be another channel that is used to feed CRM. Therefore, integration is required to identify the user and append the social interaction CRM record. This may come in the form of a lead or a customer service issue. This is where the real power of social begins to occur. Once captured, businesses can tie social media behavior to their products and services offered and take their prospective customer and existing customer interactions to the next level. Having social data in silos is only getting half the value. Integration between social and other applications that enhance the customer experience provides true value. Software companies such as Oracle have a suite of applications that are integrated to enhance the customer experience and provide true business value. Businesses that do this sooner will thrive and take market share away from competitors.
Does anyone think that social is going away? It’s only just begun! It’s very similar to the dot com boom we saw in the late 1990’s, except it’s bigger! Companies that develop their social strategy stand to gain enormous benefits. They’ll leverage social networks to promote their brand. They’ll work with users that have the highest Klout scores to help advocate their brands. They’ll develop reputation management strategies via social channels to ensure that they’re addressing customer concerns before they go viral. They’ll use social media to develop innovation management strategies. B2B companies will monitor what’s happening with their end customers, even if a distribution channel acts as a middleman. They’ll use social media to recruit the best talent. They’ll use social media to foster lead management. They’ll also include social media in their customer service strategy. After all, ignoring a social channel would be like ignoring a ringing telephone. I was recently at a company where their only channel to provide customer service was via social channels. Imagine that just a few years ago? Social touches everything. #SocialTouchesEverything! And everything it touches, it enhances. We are only constrained by our ability to think of the possibilities. Businesses should budget for and evaluate social software that provides these capabilities, such as Oracle’s Social Relationship Management platform, to gain these advantages.