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Social makes service visible

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Providing social customer service in today’s environment is no easy task. However, since social media platforms have evolved, customers expect responses in real-time and the responses are no longer private, writes MPUMI NHLAPO at T-Systems South Africa.

Providing social customer service and support in today’s multi-channel environment is by no means an easy task. Previously customers were forced to interact with organisations using a single medium (the telephone) that was private, one-on-one communication. Since the advent of social media platforms, even more communication platforms have been opened up and not only do customers expect to have their customer response queries addressed on these platforms in real-time, but these customer service interactions are now no longer private and have been moved squarely into the public domain.

Customer service now subject to public scrutiny

In light of the open nature of social media platforms, the impact of having the customer service business functionality moved into the open means that a company’s internal problem resolution process is now exposed to public scrutiny. In such a connected market it is no longer possible to compete solely on price, and customer experience has become the key differentiator and surest way to gain new and retain existing customers. By ensuring a seamless customer experience from purchase through to product support, an organisation can ensure that they remain relevant. This means being accessible to the customer at all stages throughout the life journey, and providing information and engaging on the platform of the customer’s choosing.

The reality is that most businesses don’t just decide to adopt social media and other digital communication platforms – they’re pushed into it. Ideally for organisations, they’d want issues to be dealt with quietly under the radar in a way that cannot negatively impact their reputation, but this is short-sighted. The reality is that consumers are discussing your brand, your product and your company, regardless of whether the company is on social media or not.

An opportunity for businesses to be responsive

Social media provides businesses with a valuable opportunity. By showing that they are skilful and responsive to addressing issues related to their business functionality, it has the impact of positioning their brand favourably.

Arguably this means that the impact of social media depends on how an organisation views social media and digital platforms.  If a business perceives social media as a threat to its reputation, this is indicative of the likelihood that they have not taken the time to fix the challenges they’re having internally. This in turn impacts their ability to service the customer. Smart organisations have seen social media as an opportunity to demonstrate how committed they are to providing relevant customer service, how open they are to communicating transparently, and in so doing they’re realising the benefits that come with being able to understand their customers better, and work with their customers towards service resolution.

Given that conversations are already happening online, how can organisations effectively monitor social media for conversations that are already taking place about them? The answer lies in technology, of course. There are already a number of smart social media and digital monitoring and listening tools – some of them open source and others proprietary solutions. Tools like these can be set to notify you immediately of any online mentions, giving you the opportunity to respond swiftly. Technology is also available to gauge the sentiment of online conversations, allowing timeous intervention that addresses the issue appropriately.

Shift from reactive to proactive customer service

Data gathered from social media and digital monitoring and analysis also has the potential to enable a transformation from a reactive customer service model, to a proactive one. From a business perspective, by engaging with customers on social media, organisations are able to spend more time getting to know and understand their customers, which forges a deeper engagement on a long-term basis as you earn their trust incrementally.

From a consumer perspective, if businesses use and analyse the data they’re producing on social media platforms, they’re able to access services and products that are more specific and relevant to their needs, and businesses get to know how to respond to their customers better. This in turn could lead to more proactive customer service and issues can be preempted before the customer is even aware that there are issues. Furthermore, the longer an organisation has been running social media analytics applications, the more data there is on which to build predictive capabilities that use trend analysis to identify patterns between data and common customer issues.

While there are still many changes that need to happen to existing customer service models before we can progress to a truly proactive social customer service model, it all starts with the acknowledgement that we truly live in the age of the customer. It is the “Internet of Me” as far as the customer is concerned, and all interactions need to be personalised and customised for each individual, according to their preference.

What will happen to businesses that fail to evolve their customer experience into a proactive and social one? By the time such a business realizes that they’ve made a mistake, it will already be too late.  Businesses that fail to keep up with moving social and digital trends lose customer relevance and they’ll be closing their front doors soon after.

* Mpumi Nhlapo, Head of Sales and Service Management, T-Systems South Africa

 

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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