• June 12, 2009
  • By Balakrishnan Sreenivasan, principal architect, manufacturing industry practice, Infosys , VJ Bala, head of marketing, manufacturing industry practice, Infosys

Reinvent Customer Experience with Social Interactions

Companies are increasingly adopting social networking and Web 2.0 functionality, typically engaging consumers and B2B customers to strengthen their brand images. Many companies are adopting "social CRM," integrating social functionality with CRM applications. There is also growing interest around "social commerce," which leverages social interactions with customers to target promotions and to both cross-sell and upsell.

Few organizations, however, are leveraging social networking and Web 2.0 to collaborate across product development, marketing, sales, and service to do the following:

  • foster innovation and knowledge-sharing;
  • maximize revenue opportunities; and
  • enhance the customer experience.

While the benefits may be game-changing, implementing the capabilities requires a common technology platform with sophisticated profiling, collaboration, and analytical tools as well as governance mechanisms to sustain operations and reduce risks.

Boosting the Brand Image
Realizing the full potential of social media to engage customers and enhance brand image involves a lot more than inserting blogs, wikis, or RSS feeds into Web sites. It requires rethinking existing processes and systems to provide customers a unified and engaging experience. For example, a global semiconductor manufacturer wanted to leverage social media in its Web-based marketing strategy to directly engage with consumers. The company realized that a fragmented set of user-facing Web sites to capture user interactions and interests would dilute the branding and drive away users. So the company sought to create a seamless view to attract users and provide the best user experience. An integrated social media platform helped the company improve its branding with consumers while minimizing risks. The platform also enabled one-stop social media analytics to capture user activities, recommendations, and comments across all Web sites.

Customer-Driven Innovation
Social media provides a window into unexpressed customer needs and preferences. Social analytics helps companies analyze these preferences and identify influential customers or groups whose opinions matter. Firms can then rapidly prototype new products or functionality, test the products with the newly discovered influencers, and market the products through viral methods and targeted promotions.

The result: better products and new-product introductions.

A global videogame maker is deploying an enterprise social networking and community services platform to recharge innovation through collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and communication across its growing, matrixed organization. The company is planning community services, on-boarding multiple communities, and instituting a governance plan to sustain community operations.

Customer Experience: Better, Faster, Cheaper
Social interactions and a community-driven approach boost brand image and product innovation, but they also facilitate the kind of internal and external collaboration that enhance the total customer experience.

A leading telecommunications firm implemented a collaborative authoring system as part of its social CRM initiative. The system collates document "nuggets" from multiple people, helping technical-support personnel collaborate with sales, support, and development functions to quickly create complete solution documents for customers. From support coss that totaled $3 million per quarter, the company expects to save nearly 12 percent through improved reusability and quality of the solution documents. A few key highlights:

  • A self-organizing community approach brings appropriate people together based on issue or need.
  • Templates ensure individual contributions build toward complete solution documents.
  • Ratings, comments, and voting by community members continuously improve content quality through iteration.
  • Tagging and context-sensitive search enable faster discovery of relevant information.

The combination of the right teams collaborating, faster information discovery, and continuous improvement of content is helping the company respond quickly to customers with better quality support at much lower cost. Such collaborative authoring could also be applied to authoring and management of proposals or contracts to create the respective content faster, better, and cheaper.

Another example is collaborative idea management to help capture, manage, and evolve ideas. Field-support engineers handle product issues daily and have insight into the top issues customers face, positioning those engineers to channel the right improvements to product teams that could have the most impact on support costs. A collaborative idea management tool that integrates with the customer-incident management system enables field-service engineers to identify repetitive issues that customers are facing to guide product improvement. The ideas then evolve into specific product enhancements via collaboration across product teams, marketing, sales, and support.

From a service standpoint, an area where social interactions enhance CRM functions and overall customer experience is in contact centers. Contact center personnel deal with customer issues that are either repetitive or one-off incidents. A collaborative system helps service personnel search for solutions to past incidents, update existing solutions, or create new ones to provide customers better service, quickly.

There are a variety of tools and technologies that integrate social interactions to facilitate collaborative content or product creation and service delivery. An effective approach combines business-user workbenches (say, for customer service or field support) on a common technology platform. The key features of the technology platform would include:

  • user profile management;
  • activity stream views;
  • personalization;
  • management of communities or user groups;
  • user rating and commenting;
  • tagging;
  • contextual search;
  • social bookmarking;
  • reputation monitoring mechanisms;
  • social analytics;
  • syndication; and
  • collaborative initiative execution.

About the Authors

Balakrishnan Sreenivasan is a principal architect with the technology consulting group at Infosys' Manufacturing Industry Practice, focusing on Web-based transformational initiatives. He has over 15 years of experience in solving complex technology problems in management domains within manufacturing and private equity.

VJ Bala is the marketing head for Infosys' Manufacturing Industry Practice. He has over 15 years of experience in applying technology in product development, business operations, and marketing in the manufacturing and high technology industries.

Infosys is a global consulting and services firm that provides technology-enabled business solutions to Global 2000 companies.

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For the rest of the June 2009 issue of CRM magazine — The Social Media Issue — please click here.

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