A social media strategy has now become a survival tool for almost all corporates and is proving to be a game changer in the BPO industry too as companies are increasingly feeling the need to track social media conversations to understand consumer preferences and perceptions towards their products and services.
Reason? The way customers engage with companies is shifting from telephones and email to social and mobile applications.
Every corporate wants to know know how, when and why they are being mentioned on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn by different consumers and BPOs are now helping them monitor this trend.
According to a report in the Economic Times today, BPOs such as Aditya Birla Minacs, FirstSource and Aegis are now proactively offering to monitor social media and reaching out through platforms including Twitter and Facebook as they manage customer relations for their clients.
While Aditya Birla Minacs has invested $11 million in social media-related services and offers key-word monitoring and reputation management services for five customers currently and is in discussions with a further 12 for this service, FirstSource too runs social media forums for its clients, where customers can engage in discussions about products or services, the reported noted.
In 2011 India's largest BPO GenPact acquired EmPower Research, an integrated media and business research company with capabilities in social media research, media monitoring and measurement for an undisclosed amount.
Soon after, Mumbai-based BPO provider 24/7 Customer announced their plans to hire over 5,000 social and interactive media (SIM) advisors in India.
Other BPO providers who already made a foray into social media management services include Wipro, Teleperformance and contact centre outsourcing firm Sitel.
When it comes to business, from launching to marketing to receiving feedbacks from customers, the social media has been an immense platform.
According to the “2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report” from Social Media Examiner, the traditional “big three” social networks of Facebook (92%), Twitter (82%), and LinkedIn (73%) are the most frequently used by social media marketers and that 30% of participants were outsourcing some of their social media efforts, up from 28% in 2011 and a significant increase from 14% in 2010. Even Gartner predicts that by 2015, refusing to communicate by social media will be as damaging to a company’s reputation and customer service levels as ignoring an email or phone call is today.
That means BPO providers must hire and train the right people to manage these evolving communication channels because a a good telephone agent isn’t necessarily a good social media agent.
Even though traditional voice data centers are important, customers expect clienting organisations to have the social media infrastructure to interact with them because it implies real time responses to posts, tweets etc. demonstrating to their customers they are actively listening.
As John Bryson, Director, Product Management, Sitel rightly points out in this article, "Social inquiries require immediate action. The inability to respond quickly and effectively turns to customer remorse, reputational damage and lost sales opportunities."
In other words, in the social world, poor responses have the potential to go viral which is why Social agents need to be well trained and highly skilled.
According to Datamark's top ten BPO trends in 2013, Competitive BPOs will leverage global centers and customer-contact reps with multiple language skills to deliver 24/7/365 customer service via Facebook, Twitter and other channels, bringing some to clients some “weekend peace of mind.”
How this works
The three business requirements of social media are listening to conversations, deep customer analytics and responding to conversation, all of which can be provided as a service. And this is where BPOs are seeing a business opportunity as they can provide all their clients thee capabilities without them having to worry about hiring or investing in new resources to gain traction on social media.
For instance, if suppose there is a BPO company and its client is a telecom company, then any item, comment posted on social media ( blog'Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter, etc ) will be monitored by the BPO . The telecom company will also be able to identify new trends among their customers via social networking sites and analyze the latest requirements of consumers.
Katrina Menzigian, Vice President, Everest Group also notes that while testing product ideas in the market or hearing about poor service is obvious on the web, what’s newer is finding out from your customers how well your finance process is working.
"For example, if your business offers a product rebate and nobody receives their checks, your customers could be ranting about this online. Your BPO service provider could be part of the solution by using intelligence coming in from the market to figure out why those checks aren’t going out. In this example the monitoring connects the consumer experience back to an internal process in a way that really hasn’t been seen until now," she explains in this blog post.
So while it lessens the burden on corporates to adopt large capital-intensive structure, a well-placed BPO service provider can help a company to focus on selling and growing their business while they look after the social media elements, providing the infrastructure, processes, technology and intelligence to interpret customer data analytics and to respond accordingly.