By Ram Mohan Natarajan, Senior Vice President, Business Transformation with Firstsource Solutions

1. Mere presence is not enough

Social media is an important research tool, notably for younger generations when looking for new products and services. Deloitte’s Media Consumer survey 2013, showed 57 percent of 14-17 year olds and 45 percent of 18-24 year olds (“millennials”) supported this view. In other words, over half of these telco consumers are logging on to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedln, etc. to learn more about telcos.

Telcos have to be more than just present on all social media network channels. Customers are connecting, researching and commenting 24/7, so companies that want to maintain their competitive edge need to keep their social media streams completely up to date with the very latest news and information and then be ready to react.

2. Have a strategy in place

A social media strategy needs to be knitted into the fabric of your business. The thought process behind the development of such a strategy needs to ask key questions of the business, such as: How can we be proactive and empathetic at the same time? How can we make sure we turn a negative comment into a neutral conversation? How can we drive customers to help themselves? This strategy needs to be rolled out and implemented thoroughly and quickly, as well as having the capability to adapt to change.

3. Smart, engaging responses are key

Since, in the social media sphere, conversations happen in the public domain in close to real-time, it is essential that responses are thoughtful, helpful, appropriate and tailored. But responses must not be overtly scripted, as this will strike a false note and undermine the feeling of authentic conversation, which is one of social’s hallmarks and attractions.

4. 140 characters can’t do complex customer service

140 characters are not the most efficient way to solve a technical query or an issue relating to a customer’s account. A more effective solution to technical queries can be via online peer group forums where customers discuss problems with each other, via a mix of resources including FAQs and online videos. The challenge is to find ways to use channels such as Twitter to redirect customers to the right content on the website.

5. Keep your eyes on your competition

Your peers are following your strategy more closely than you know, so make sure you are on top of all of theirs. Cross-industry innovative ideas are circulating and being debated on social media channels with greater frequency than ever before, so your company should be part of this debate as an industry thought leader. In an industry where product and service differentiation becomes ever harder to achieve or determine, you need all the edge you can get.

6. Understand your brand

Positive word-of-mouth goes a long way in influencing customers’ decisions to use a company’s products and services. Research shows half of telecoms customers will consider trying a company based on positive word-of-mouth and there is no doubt that social media sentiment is playing an increasingly important role in this. But pulling out the raw social media sentiment is just step one. The real key is to place this sentiment in context with other customer interactions – including customer webchat, emails and phone calls – to gain a 360-degree view of what customers really think about your brand.

7. Have a unified view of the customer

Customers naturally expect consistency in the responses they receive from all the communication channels telcos offer. They hate repeating themselves – keying in account numbers more than once or answering the same security questions if a call is transferred to another department. Customers now expect telcos to have an interaction history across channels and that now includes social media, as well as online chat, email and voice, 

8. Empower social agents

Customer service agents that deal with social media need to be highly engaged, efficient and friendly while able to multitask between many social conversations, potentially across multiple networks. The role now requires a blend of sales, marketing and customer service skills. These agents will also need to make quick decisions based on their conversations and thus will need high empowerment in the process, underpinned by appropriate specialist training with regular updates.

9. Customer insights will always be key

Device complexity and diversity, combined with a mobile work force and 24/7 expectations are driving change in customer service and support requirements. Customer intelligence is now the key to helping telcos design the right messages for the right channels at the right time. Telcos can also use customer intelligence to segment different customer groups and to identify priority customers and those who are most likely to leave. Social media channels are absolutely packed with customer data that can be mined and turned into actionable insights to stay in tune with customers and potentially one step ahead of the competition.

10. Don’t stop innovating

Our own recent research completed in conjunction with YouGov show that customers have only just started experimenting with social media as an interaction channel. This is a growing medium and return on the investment has still not been quantified. But as customers embrace this, the onus is on telcos to keep coming up with innovative ways of engaging with them via this channel.

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