Deciding upon Social CRM: Your Brand Can Benefit

Last week, I read an article on Businessinsider.com describing why some major brands chose to pull the plug on their social media customer service on either Facebook or Twitter. Being on social is an invitation to interaction – both the positive and negative kind. The question is: Will these companies benefit from NOT servicing their customers on social?

No, not in my opinion. Sure, they may have saved themselves from public displays of unsatisfied customers’ comments on their social profiles. At the same time, they have also missed out on all the positive feedback and brand experiences. Those positives and negatives set aside, one thing is still for sure: Closing down their own social channels won’t mean the end of conversations about their brand on social media. When brands manage social channels of communication, they are capable of engaging with conversations, turning critics into fans and empowering their brand ambassadors. If a brand closes down its social channels, this is no longer possible and they lose control of their online image.

As Mike Rowan from Atlanta-based social media agency Swarm says to Businessinsider.com: “… interaction often turns an irate customer into an advocate for the brand. And that is worth its weight in gold.” And this is my point exactly. At Mindjumpers, we’ve often seen how our clients’ persistent social media presence and understanding of the customers’ and fans’ needs, complaints and brand experiences can turn even the most critical fan into a brand ambassador.

 

Charter Communication pulled the Twitter plug

The reason why one of U.S.’s biggest cable providers, Charter Communication Inc. decided to pull the plug on their Twitter customer service is, according to Business Insider, that they simply thought the online customer service wasn’t working the way they’d hoped for. They therefore deleted their profile, @Umatters2Charter, which indisputably sends out quite an odd message to their followers and customers: “So, we don’t matter to Charter anymore…?” A message most customers would derive from the lack of service on a platform on which they have grown accustomed to be able to interact directly with major brands.

 

Taken by the Facebook “storm”

During especially the past 6 months, we have seen many examples of Facebook “storms”, where thousands of people will “like” a negative customer comment on a brand page within mere hours. All due to changes in Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm that calculates content relevance. And though it is never very pleasant when your brand’s Facebook page or Twitter profile becomes the target of criticism and negative attacks, the social networks quickly and easily allow you to interact directly with those criticizing you. More importantly, the networks enable you to do so transparently, meaning that all the other fans will see how you respond and offer your understanding and help. Naturally, this means that having a social presence is something you, as a brand as well as a private user, need to take seriously, as a lack of response (or simply a poor response) will only make matters worse. According to an infographic by CrowdSourcing.org, no less than 83% of social media users blame poor customer service for why they abandoned a purchase, whereas only 49% of non-social media users claimed this their reason.

If you understand your community and its dynamics on both a global and local level, you will also have the extra insights to pull off comedy stunts like British telecompany O2 has become famous for :

Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain messenger.com to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.

 

Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.

 

Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.

 

At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.