NEW ORLEANS (ACCE 2011) -- Companies don’t have a choice about whether to do social media. Instead, it's a question of how well they want to do it, said Erik Qualman, a social media expert and author of Socialnomics, during his keynote that opened the second day of ICMI's Annual Call Center Expo (ACCE) today.
Qualman, who defines "socialnomics" as "word of mouth on steroids," told attendees that the now-famous (or infamous "United Breaks Guitars" video on YouTube shows the power one consumer can have. In the months since the video first aired on YouTube, it has been seen more than 13 million times.
Qualman singled that incident out as a failed attempt at customer service, followed by an even worse follow-up, but said most companies will likely fail on their first foray into social media. "You're going to fail the first time you go social. Fail first and fail fast," he advised. "You know you're not going to get it 100 percent right on your first time, but learn from it and move on."
He urged companies to keep working at it, though, even after horrific failures. He cited research from Altimeter Group that found that companies that use social media a lot see a 16 percent increase in revenue on average, while companies that don't use it have seen a 7 percent drop in revenue.
But despite the rewards, or potential rewards, most companies today still don't have a clearly defined or executed social media strategy, according to Jorge Blanco, vice president of product marketing for contact center solutions at Avaya, who delivered the lunchtime keynote.
"With social, most companies are aware of the need, but don't know what to do about it," he says. "They'e in a state of paralysis, where they get it and they know the value but they don't know what to do with it."
Blanco identified two key demographics that define most executives today. They are the "digital immigrants" (people born before 1980) and "digital natives" (who were born after 1980). "Most of the people in the decision-making role are digital immigrants who are trying to grapple with it all," he said. "Hence, there's a lot of organizational and operational inertia."
Blanco also revealed some data that emerged in Avaya's recent Contact Center Consumer Preference Study, which asked more than 5,000 consumers from around the world their thoughts on customer service topics. Key global results included the following:
- 40 percent of global consumers prefer alternate methods of contact, including Web chat, self-service, and text messaging, to phone-based customer service. But despite this, 70 percent listed voice as the method used most often in the past three months to contact customer service.
- 55 percent of consumers said that in one to two years, email is what they will use regularly to reach customer service centers. This is compared to 15 percent who said email is their most often-used method today.
- 18 percent said Web chat will be their preferred contact method in one to two years, versus just 2 percent who said it's their most often used method today.
- 86 percent of consumers said that they are likely to tell friends, family, or colleagues about a poor customer service center experience.
Results were also measured for U.S. consumers. Key U.S. findings included the following:
- 32 percent of U.S. consumers prefer alternate methods of contact—including Web chat, self-service, and text messaging—to phone-based customer service. But despite this, 75 percent listed voice as the method used most often in the past three months to contact customer service.
- 56 percent expect email to become their regular means of contact in the next two years.
- Half of U.S. consumers surveyed are likely to opt to use an automated voice response system when offered.
- 90 percent of U.S. consumers will tell friends, family or colleagues about a poor customer service experience.
- Just 20 percent said they receive excellent customer service from call centers.
- Quick query resolution is the top rated reason U.S. consumers will rate a customer experience as excellent.
The research, Blanco said, "shows that today there is no predominant mode of contact. It's all relevant."
Other research found that customers would be willing to pay up to 20 percent more for a product if it came with good customer service, which is up from 5 percent a few years ago. And, Blanco noted, 46 percent of consumers think loyalty is important, but 83 percent will be loyal only if they are treated well.
It is in that environment that Qualman suggested that companies keep their social media activities in house. "It's a core activity, and it's not something you want to outsource," he said. "It's your customer, and you do not want to take chances."
Qualman also urged companies to use at least one of the free social media monitoring tools available today. "If you want to look like an all-star, devise a listening report," he said. That report, which could be presented to company executives at regular intervals, should detail what's being said not only about the company but about its competitors as well, he added.