Dan Wilson looks at the emergence of social media CEM - what it means and why we should be paying attention.
Business owners are increasingly interested in the effect of social media on their businesses. Whether they’re concerned or excited, they know social media is changing the game.
Before the advent of review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, business unit managers were much more in control of their properties’ images and reputations. Now, a growing number of adults are using these sites to aid in decisions about where to eat, shop, or stay. For example, according to Forrester’s "North American Technographics Online Survey", roughly 78 million individuals now regularly participate in travel-specific social media.
And social media reviews are skyrocketing, according to published media:
- TripAdvisor alone contains 40 million reviews, double its total two years ago. Yelp, which was founded in 2005, hit 1 million reviews in mid-2007 and passed 10 million in March 2010 despite its policy restricting reviews to site members only.
- Forrester estimates that roughly 65 million US online adults engage in 'critic' behaviour, posting ratings, reviews and other critiques on the social web at least once a month.
- Customer reviews have been bundled into the user experience of most online storefronts. Reviews are front and center on hospitality booking sites such as Expedia.com, just as they are on Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and the online Apple Store.
- Emerging location-based applications such as Facebook Places, Foursquare, and Gowalla are integrating customer reviews into their offerings.
That means that quite a few potential customers are won over by positive reviews or lost forever by negative ones. Since these reviews now have a direct effect on revenue at a particular location or branch, business managers often consider these comments an especially urgent form of customer feedback.
Review sites are also useful to business owners because they contain a wealth of data about competitors. Managers can read reviews regarding competitors in the area, an activity somewhat akin to leafing through their competitors' customer surveys. For the hospitality industry, TripAdvisor reviews are particularly detailed; they contain specific scores for 'Value', 'Rooms', 'Location', 'Cleanliness', 'Service', and 'Sleep Quality'.
By keeping close track of their competitors' specific strengths and weaknesses over time, business owners can work to stay ahead in their local markets. And by monitoring the brand reputation of their own businesses, they can work to address customer pain points and prevent problems from snowballing. They can even use some social media to engage directly with customers and close the loop in much the same way they might call a customer who gives a low score on a survey. Finally, social media feedback can be used to motivate frontline staff members by making their performance and the importance of their contributions visible to the world.
Right now, capitalising on social media can be very labour-intensive for companies. But the development of new tools for social media integration with CEM survey feedback has the potential to change that.
An emerging product category: social media CEM
The core competency of many existing CEM programs is leveraging customer feedback to help businesses improve performance. Because of this core capability, CEM vendors could be well positioned to integrate social media tracking solutions as well, to achieve the best of both worlds.
Going forward, these solutions could have functionality to:
- Search the social web for customer feedback with associated satisfaction metrics, not just brand mentions and keyword combinations.
- Collect data on the performance of individual business units by location.
- Calculate sophisticated metrics such as customer satisfaction, not just mention counts or overall sentiment.
- Deliver valuable insights for location and business unit representatives, in addition to corporate brand marketing, PR, and customer support.
- Respond to social media reviews easily, using forums, templates, and other approaches.
- Integrate with other existing forms of CEM feedback collection.
Why social media CEM is important
At present, "customer feedback with associated satisfaction metrics" is primarily limited to reviews from sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, an apparently narrow data set. But, as outlined above, the public nature of these reviews and their sheer volume make them uniquely compelling to location managers.
It’s only a matter of time before parsing and analysing these reviews becomes de rigueur for businesses committed to excellence in customer satisfaction. And the applications don’t stop there - reviews are the purest form of "customer feedback with associated satisfaction metrics" found on the social web. But adding effective sentiment analysis to a text analytics offering aimed at survey feedback could enable the tool’s use for the collection of satisfaction metrics from customer feedback left on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Once this capability becomes mainstream, businesses will find it even more crucial to invest in CEM systems that unify solicited and unsolicited feedback. Together, the two forms of feedback provide the most powerful business intelligence. For example:
- Where social feedback mitigates public risks by managing posts, solicited feedback validates the legitimacy of social trends, concerns and hypotheses.
- Where social feedback maps 'public' customer satisfaction over time, solicited feedback offers scientifically qualified results.
- Where social feedback lets the public know a business cares and works to fix issues, solicited feedback surveys for all locations and across demographics, because not everyone posts online.
The bottom line: Most so-called social media tools monitor image and reputation only at the brand level. True VOC-level power - to close the loop with customers and eliminate customer pain points - will come from the marriage of CEM feedback with brand and location social media feedback in a single reporting application.
Dan Wilson is senior project manager for Medallia, Inc., a CEM vendor headquartered in Palo Alto, CA. He has over 11 years of product management and engineering experience. Dan’s most recent endeavor has been developing Medallia’s Social Media CEM solution.