Ten ways that social media can give you a competitive edge


Call centres have been looking at social media for some time.

Keith Pearce outlines here ten different ways organisations can use social media to gain a competitive edge.

1.  Consider social media as a way of differentiating the customer experiences you offer

Customer service/contact centre managers should start to use social media sites as a way to achieve better engagement with consumers. They should consider social media as a way of differentiating the customer experiences they offer. By using these tools they can build new relationships with their social media base, and actually create armies of brand advocates ready to drive sales revenue.   Today, major brands, such as Ford, Coca-Cola and Starbucks, are harnessing the power of social media and incorporating popular platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, to better engage with their customers.

2. Integrate social media into your channel mix – don’t just add it on!

Customers will often migrate between phone, web, mobile and social media channels. For example, a high-value customer may initially post an angry and explosive rant on Twitter or a company forum about a poor customer experience. Later that customer may call the contact centre for resolution. During the phone conversation, the hapless and uninformed agent may inappropriately deliver an up-sell offer, further infuriating the customer.

Companies must determine a long-term cross-channel conversation strategy so that they are able to speak with one voice to the customer, while delivering a consistent customer experience.

3.  Segment customers based on business value

In the traditional contact centre world, customers are segmented and routed to agents based upon their perceived business value to the company, purchase history, or status. In a social media world, customer value and segmentation take on a whole new dimension.

Your social media strategy must address your audience’s answers to the following ‘social graph’ questions:

  • Are they “super-influencers?” (i.e. does their status, forum following, or reputation have the ability to sway existing or future customers?)
  • Do they have large followings on Twitter?
  • Do they have blogs with large audiences?
  • How many times have they commented?
  • What’s their accuracy?
  • Do they comment positively or negatively about products?

4.  Ongoing profiling of your customers enables 1:1 engagement

The challenge for the boardroom – and the rest of the business – is how to piece together the different bits of the customer jigsaw to build stronger customer relationships.

By enhancing customer profiling to reflect the new social media dimensions, businesses can more intelligently anticipate who the online influencers are and how they should be handled, regardless of their past purchasing history.

Continually profiling your customers will enable you to gain a solid understanding of each customer’s preferences, needs and behaviours, and allow your contact centre and customer service managers to refine retention techniques on a personalised basis.

5.  Use crowd sourcing

Knowledge management and web self-service systems can be dramatically augmented with new sources of information. For example, “tribal knowledge” is generated via the posts within enterprise-sponsored forums and provides a new wellspring of information, answers and questions. This, and other valuable knowledge gleaned from social media channels, should be validated via web analytics and populated for the benefit of every channel within the common knowledge base.

As companies leverage new sources of information, their knowledge management  system must be integrated across every channel — voice, email, chat, SMS, web self-service and social media — to ensure consistency of answers.

6. Look at the power of ‘social listening’

Social-media tools such as Monitter and TweetBeep help companies consolidate and crystallise comments to gain valuable insight into the current worth of their brand, or the effectiveness of specific marketing campaigns or products. “Social listening” yields large returns relative to the investment required, because it allows you to listen passively to what is being said about you at virtual “cocktail parties” all over the world.

7. Integrate live chat with the ones that count

Your customers will often seek advice from peers when researching a new product or support issue. However, advice from peers is only half of the story. When a tweet or forum post represents a significant business value, companies should seize this opportunity to engage in a live chat or phone call to provide personalised live service to a high-value customer.

8. Foster ‘super-agents’ not just super-users

Social media provides you with powerful tools that should be used by every customer-facing resource across the enterprise — regardless of whether you’re in the front office, mid-office, or back office. During non-peak hours, tweets and forum postings should be routed to phone and chat resources across the company in real time for resolution; every customer resource should become a super-user and participate within the forums.

9. Get creative and take risks

Taking advantage of social media tools and forums are new initiatives for most companies. What might work for one company, might not work for another.  Companies should not be afraid to take risks and experiment with these tools across all of their customer-facing resources in order to improve sales and service performance — as long as they clearly understand what they are trying to accomplish.

10. Social media yes, but not to the detriment of your other channels

It can become a temptation for many companies to start focusing a great deal of attention on social forums — which are much less costly to service than traditional phone or email channels.

However, it is not a good idea to become too reliant on social forums as a stopgap resolution measure or “safety net” with which you can subsequently allow traditional interaction channels to fall by the wayside. Otherwise, over time, your brand will suffer in the social blogosphere if there is a perception that an end-customer is unable to escalate efficiently from a self- to assisted-service interaction — even if you respond to their problems in a timely manner.

Seize the moment because the window of opportunity is small

So when it comes to social networking becoming a de facto component of the customer service mix, the question is not “if”, it’s “when”. However, as the race to integrate social media into enterprises’ customer service strategies picks up pace, there will only be a small window of time in which tapping into social networking’s potential will yield significant competitive advantage to businesses.


Keith Pearce

Keith Pearce

Keith Pearce is Senior Director of Marketing, EMEA for Alcatel-Lucent’s Enterprise & Strategic Industries Group (www.genesys.com)

Published On: 13th Oct 2010 - Last modified: 30th Jun 2017
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3 Comments
  1. This is a great article and I love hearing about how social media can give companies a competitive edge. I particularly love Keith’s mention of Crowdsourcing giving companies a competitive edge.

    [Rest of comment removed – No advertising allowed on the forum]

    Allison Guimard 13 Oct at 4:14 pm
  2. Social Networking is no longer an ‘if you have time’ tool, its now an essential tool, regardless of your business.

    I believe the most important point raised in this post is ‘integrate social media into your channel mix’. I have seen many examples of companies that have failed at social networking, and the main reason has been because they haven’t taken it seriously and utilised it as part of their overall business strategy. It should be considered as valuable as the news feed on your website or your press releases to the media. After all, Twitter has more than 200 million users and Facebook has more than 500 million users, PLUS they’re FREE!!!

    Anonymous 2 Mar at 1:31 pm
  3. This article is very insightful and well thought out. Tighter budgets and limited resources have forced customer service operations executives to view social media as a way to proactively “speak” to their customers.

    rosetta lue 17 Apr at 3:42 pm
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