New Insights into the Social Customer with SAP
When attendees in a breakout session at last week’s Pivot conference in New York City were asked what they thought of when they heard the name SAP, answers ranged from the expected (“ERP”, “supply chain”, and “German”) to the probably even more expected (“stodgy old tech company”, “complicated”, and “implementation quagmire”).
But Brent Leary, a Partner at CRM Essentials, LLC and a co-author of “The Social Customer Engagement Index 2012: Results, Analysis and Perspectives”, was all too ready for the predictable responses. Leading a panel with Frank Eliason of Citibank, Joe Rohrlich of Bazaarvoice, Social Media Today’s own CEO Robin Fray Carey, and moderated by Todd Wilms of SAP, the audience was then asked if they knew that SAP’s customers produced more than 70% of the world’s chocolate, 72% of the world’s beer, or 86% of the world’s athletic footwear.
This example of how to humanize the perception of SAP led off a discussion among the panelists about “implementing social tools and strategies to improve their interactions with customers to create greater service experiences.” Together, the panel of experts discussed what challenges companies face in crafting effective social experiences for their consumers and how to overcome those challenges.
According to Eliason, the challenges start with customers who don’t “necessarily want to do social”, but will it’s because “they’re frustrated and need to” as a way to communicate their grievances with their companies. Rohrlich, on the other hand, believed that the biggest challenge was securing a sufficient enough “level of executive buy-in” in order to support a healthy social connection with consumers.
Leary, however, felt that the hardest problem is actually one of mistaken identity. “Most social gets thought of as marketing or branding,” instead of for its real, beneficial aspects. “There’s a focus on ‘what can we get for the small bucks/big bang/viral campaign’, and not using [social] for creating better experiences.” Carey agreed with him, suggesting that if a company wanted to improve how they performed in social, one of the first things they could do is “cut back on ad agency spending.” She continued, “This is a lot more work than throwing up a Facebook page.”
One aspect all could agree on was on the effectiveness of a new area of study for The Social Customer Engagement Index: branded communities. In the survey, 86% of companies use Facebook and 79% use Twitter to engage with customers, but only 25% claimed using branded communities as well. Yet branded community users were far more active in their communities than on the Facebook and Twitter channels alone, and felt they were considerably more effective than them, too. Naturally, developing and maintaining branded communities also costs considerably more, but in the long run the paper’s analysis suggests that customer service costs could actually be reduced overall, and with higher satisfaction rates, too.
Leary also cautioned that branded communities “shouldn’t be totally dominated by the brand.” They need to “make people want to go there by providing the right kind of communication.” Carey further warned that companies’ lawyers will also “get an instant audience [with executives] by asking, ‘What about our reputation?’,” suggesting that uncontrolled negative experiences shared across the communities would potentially be quite harmful to the brands. Prepared to answer those concerns, she helped assuage them by reminding that “everyone loves a reformed sinner” and that ultimately the concerns might not even matter that much. “The conversations are happening”, Carey asked the attendees. “Do you want to be a part of it?”