• September 1, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Companies That Listen Get Results

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There is a wide gap between consumers who use social media and companies that consider social media monitoring and interaction a core function, according to Forrester Research.

The Dell-commissioned study revealed that while 88 percent of companies monitor online conversations and feedback and 80 percent respond to customer feedback, only 20 percent put social media at the core of marketing plans. At the same time, 80 percent of consumers purport to use social media regularly.
The research also found that technology companies lead in integrating social media programs throughout their organizations, at 39 percent, compared with verticals like media/entertainment at 21 percent and utilities and banking at 14 percent. Tech companies also are among the most widely discussed entities.

Dell alone is the subject of about 26,000 online conversations a day, according to Allison Dew, executive director of social media communities and insights at Dell.

The survey also found that these verticals use social media very differently. For tech companies, it’s about demand generation; utilities and banking use it more often for customer service, while media/entertainment companies try to expand their reach. “Very few companies have [social media] deployed across the full spectrum of activities,” Dew states.

Nearly all of the companies surveyed intend to raise their social media investments, with 73 percent planning to add employees focused on listening and engagement initiatives in the next year.

Other findings include the following:
• 50 percent of companies say their social media efforts are serious but not a core function;
• 16 percent reward customers whose ideas they use;
• Only 16 percent claim that their companies’ listening and engagement initiatives are integrated with sales, marketing, and customer service;
• 64 percent incorporate customer feedback into products or services;
• 76 percent distribute customer feedback internally;
• 31 percent are enhancing sales by offering incentive programs for customers who engage online, including deals and discounts; and
• 70 percent of business-to-business executives use social media in decision-making processes.

According to Dew, companies can’t afford not to consider social media as a core function. “We need to move it beyond that 20 percent,” she says, noting that social channels like Facebook and Twitter are “a fantastic way to engage with customers and improve perceptions of the brand, customer service, and loyalty.”
While Dell is considered among the leaders in its adoption of social media, Dew has seen quick progress by other companies. “It’s changing so quickly,” she says. “If we had done this survey two years ago, it probably would have been 3 percent [that considered social media monitoring a core function].”

“Listening and responding to customers is so basic and fundamental. The emergence of social media elevates how companies can act on the feedback they get from customers,” Karen Quintos, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Dell, said in a statement. “As companies embark on social media, the key is to embed it throughout every facet of the organization—from sales to marketing to engineering to customer service to HR to finance.”

“The power potential [of social media] is huge,” Dew adds. “It can’t be seen as this thing outside of the company.”

News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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