Use social media to retain customers

Concept of brand loyalty disappearing among consumers today, so businesses must tap social media and other tools to create customer stickiness, industry players advise.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--As consumer loyalty diminishes and user expectation for instant gratification rise, businesses ought to effectively leverage and manage new technology such as social media and smartphones that will enhance user experience in order to retain customers.

Fuad Fachroeddin, managing director of Indosat Singapore, explained that "buyer power" and customer churn rates in the Indonesian telecommunications market are very high, with around 10 operators jostling in price wars for subscriber share.

As a result, the telco had to switch from its old paradigm of "sell"--that is, activating new users and subscriptions--to a model that espoused retention, Fachroeddin said. This meant making sure Indosat's various loyalty programs stayed competitive in the Indonesian market by leveraging digital marketing tools including social media to retain and also engage customers, he explained.

Fachroeddin was a keynote speaker at the Frost & Sullivan Customer Interaction Summit held here Thursday, to discuss how enterprises can better optimize customer experience as consumer behavior continues to change in the new decade.

Social media is a vital and efficient channel to interact and communicate with users, Fachroeddin said, noting that posting updates on Facebook does not take a lot of effort. So Indosat decided to "capitalize social media networking", he added.

For example, besides offering SMS and an online microsite, Facebook was incorporated into a marketing campaign to promote a short-film competition Indosat had organized. The initiative received 11 million hits.

Ruth Rowan, Asia-Pacific marketing director of BT Global Services, stressed that consumers today do not exhibit strong feelings about any specific brand. Instead, they are most concerned about the ease of doing business with the organization, for instance, opening a new bank account or making an online flight reservation.

Rowan referred to this as the rise of the "autonomous customer"--one who wants immediate resolution and will try to solve any problem by himself first. He also trusts other customers or peers, she added.

This means that by and large, organizations are getting bypassed by customers, she noted.

Technology ups customer service ante
Social media is one way companies can push relevant content and information for consumers to "self-serve" and also interact with other fellow customers, Rowan said. She added that businesses also need to know how to "mediate and moderate, but not interfere" in dialogues that take place on social platforms.

In addition, consumers these days are technologically-literate, making use of multiple channels when transacting--including the Internet, social networking sites and mobile applications--before eventually calling the call center. By this time, they expect help "beyond the standard FAQ" (frequently asked questions), she said.

Therefore, the best bet for companies looking to improve customer retention is to make it easy for consumers to do business with them. This will require integrating multiple points of contact to ensure customer experience is both convenient and consistent, Rowan added.

Another speaker at the summit, Dave Chin, Asia-Pacific senior manager of strategic solutions engineering at Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, concurred and gave the example of the Groupama toujours là mobile app from international insurance company, Groupama. The app lets customers choose the appropriate type of assistance and check how long they have to wait for the call center agent to call them back. This way, users can avoid "IVR hell" (interactive voice response), Chin quipped, adding that when the call is returned, the agent is already aware of the situation the customer is in and what help he needs, he described.

Consumer innovation is outpacing the enterprise and its ability to keep up with the demand, he added. Hence, a multi-channel strategy can make all the difference--when companies not only embrace trends such as mobile apps and social media, but also seek to influence and "convert the conversation" when resolving any customers issues or enhancing their experience, Chin noted.

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