How social media is shaping the customer experience

With the rise of social media tools and Web sites, customer experiences are evolving and consumers are now demanding a different way of doing business with organizations.During a virtual discussion hosted by Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Comcast this week, executives spoke about the evolution of customer experiences as it relates to social media tools.

John Hernandez, general manager and vice-president for Cisco’s customer collaboration business unit, said since social media enables real-time insight and communications, a great deal of power is put into the consumer’s hands.

“Customers are putting pressure on corporations in terms of how they want to interact,” Hernandez said. “Social media puts the pressure on organizations to interact with customers and to solve problems in real-time.”

Martin Marcinczyk, vice-president of national customer operations at Comcast, a cable operator, Internet service provider and also a Cisco customer, said the customer experience has evolved over the years from face-to-face interactions to front-counter interactions to, most recently, e-mail, chat, blogs and other forms of social media.At Comcast, Marcinczyk said the company handles over one million customer transactions a day. The challenge is to create a common customer experience across all contact channels.

“Right now, we have systems for each of these channels and we’re trying to converge them together,” he said. “It’s challenging because some customers may start their transaction online, and then maybe they’ll go into a chat and then get on the phone if they don’t get the answer they’re looking for. At Comcast, we want to converge these channels together, so when a customer transitions from one channel to the next, they don’t need to reiterate their question or concern over and over again.”

Marcinczyk said in order to remain successful as a business, Comcast needs to adapt to how customers want to communicate. In keeping all lines of communication open thru various channels, it not only creates a better customer experience, but it also allows for easier conversations.

At Cisco, Hernandez said the company has two customer advocacy boards for customer input. There’s a technical-focused group which helps the company with insight into where they focus their R&D, and another group for brainstorming what the future of technology will look like.

“When you combine these two groups together, we’re seeing some strong features coming out in some of the applications we have coming out toward the end of this year,” he said. “One of them really surrounds social media and we see it as a product and solution play, instead of being a services play like some of our competitors may see it.”

During a demonstration of social media customer care using a site like Twitter, Cisco said companies can find and address customer issues to provide an improved customer experience. For instance, if a customer were to Tweet a complaint, that Tweet could be monitored and delivered to the appropriate company’s customer service agent,who could then view relevant information about the customer, such as a public profile or a LinkedIn page. By providing this “on-call” type of service by responding to customer enquiries using social media tools, customers may choose to share their positive customer experience with their friends and followers on Twitter. Ultimately, this increases a company’s brand and also portrays a more positive perception of the brand.

Using information gathered thru social media and public profiles, organizations can also better target what certain customers are looking for, based on their listed likes and preferences.

At Cisco, Hernandez said the company is working to create applications that are not only infrastructure agnostic, but also agnostic to various social media channels. This way, organizations will be able to use the network as a platform to more effectively engage with their customers in a more efficient fashion. Hernandez said that while Cisco has some solutions that target social media in beta now, there will be a formal product launch in the November time frame.

Follow Maxine Cheung on Twitter: @MaxineCheungCDN.

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
Staff Writer, Computer Dealer News

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