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Defeating the Dark Side of Social Networking

When a company launches a product and wants to know where customers are finding fault, it needs to combine the conversations occurring in social media with the conversations occurring in its call centers and stores. Accenture’s research has found that consumers buying pricey tech goods like mobile phones and TVs tend to perform lots of research online before setting foot in a store. Retailers who want their employees to know more than their customers might provide their staff with a daily or weekly summary of the latest product information synthesized from Internet buzz and call-center conversations.

Six Recommendations

To try to respond to conversations about their brands in social media, companies would do well to consider six sets of actions:

¶ Develop a “social customer management” strategy that includes technical and business process components designed to engage customers in conversations on the Web.

¶ Automate as much interaction with customers as possible, so call-center workers can put the best approaches to work repeatedly. Clarabridge, for example, makes automation software to help with this.

¶ Reduce the time it takes to respond to Web postings from weeks to hours, or even minutes. Attivio’s real-time analytical software can help companies quantify and react to customer opinions, for example.

¶ Connect marketers with product development staff to build a bridge from the conversations happening on the Web to the goods and services your company produces. Dell’s IdeaStorm is a great example.

¶ Balance your resources between fielding customer phone calls and responding to what’s happening on the Web. Of these six actions that Accenture recommends, rebalancing these resources is perhaps the hardest, especially since customer management software may not easily consume information coming in through the Web.

¶ Prioritize which customers demand the most immediate attention, and come up with a plan to ensure a timely response based on how valuable they are.

Every customer who contacts a company through any communication channel should be handled in some capacity. However, those that get in touch, or just gripe, through social media may need some extra care. In addition, services from vendors including Rapleaf and Flowtown let companies append data gathered from social media to computerized records of customers and prospects. The Lending Club, a peer-to-peer lender, uses this kind of data for marketing and to help uncover fraudulent loan applications.

Would you ignore a customer who called you and complained by telephone? Probably not. Then why ignore customers complaining about your firm through social media that’s instantly accessible to others? Companies shouldn’t depend on customers to write positive things about them.

Joseph Hughes is a senior executive with Accenture’s Customer Service & Support Business. He can be reached at joseph.p.hughes@accenture.com. Chris Boudreaux is a senior manager within Accenture’s Strategy business unit. He can be reached at chris.boudreaux@accenture.com

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