Social Media Amplifies the Customer Experience

SAN DIEGO, CALIF.--Social media is the great equalizer between companies and consumers, but utilizing social channels to their full potential can be laced with complexity if social media is not incorporated into a broader customer engagement strategy.

In 2013, social CRM could witness a sizable shift away from the use of social media as pure marketing or customer service plays, instead collaborating for customer support interactions, noted Jenny Sussin, principal research analyst at Gartner, during a presentation at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit here on Wednesday.

By 2015, the development of comprehensive social media teams will accelerate, and by 2017, social media could achieve enterprise-wide clout and incorporate sales, marketing, customer service, human resources, and other departments. In a separate presentation, it was estimated that the 3 percent of social media interactions that companies have with customers today could grow to 20 percent by 2016.

More companies are realizing the value of social media as a tool to improve the customer experience. Today, social media is being used as more than a communications platform, and is morphing into a means to ensure product quality, services, and deliverables, Sussin said.

Positive social media interactions can contribute to overall customer satisfaction, as well. However, companies need to consider "accessibility" to ensure customers have the same experience whenever they interact with a brand on social media. Companies should strive to be consistent and thorough, asking, "Am I answering all of [my customers'] questions when they have questions?"

For marketing, customer service, and IT executives, developing an action plan for using social media to improve the customer experience begins with assessing where the organization ranks in social media maturity. Next, executives should identify a single aspect of customer engagement that would be improved through the addition of a social media component. After engaging stakeholders to bring social media into the overall customer engagement strategy, the values for success should be agreed upon. Finally, a company should deploy a test pilot and then iterate the strategy across the business once smaller successes are found.

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