Call Center Technology

What's New in Social CRM

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  July 02, 2012

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Listening is often enough if you’re a friend, a parent or a shrink. That’s clearly not the case, however, if you’re a company operating in this day and age of social media.

“Digital and social media are very important parts of the customer experience eco-system and have gained significant customer mindshare in recent times,” notes Aparup Sengupta, managing director and global CEO of Aegis.

“With customer service, marketing and sales teams joining the drive, the demand has grown beyond pure listening and analyzing to include engaging with the end users,” he adds. “Our research shows that social media is the top of the mind agenda around a brand with CXOs.”

Aegis has been focused specifically on being a contact center company for most of the 25 years it’s been in business, says Anil Modi, chief marketing officer for Aegis, and president of its Middle East North Africa region. But in recent years Aegis has looked at how customer relationships are changing, how different companies’ product offering and pricing across specific verticals are often very similar to one another, and how it can help client companies differentiate themselves through user experience.

To move this effort forward, the company two years ago established Aegis Innovations Labs, where it does research and builds products that its customers can use to target and engage customers. The first deliverable on this front is the social media engagement solution known as AegisLISA. The LISA part stands for listen, interact, socialize, align.

Modi explains that AegisLISA, an outsourced solution that includes software and people, enables a brand to interact with its customers. Aegis already has been doing that with e-mail, voice, and chat, he says, but when the company looked at social solutions it found that most of them essentially were listening tools. The Facebook (News - Alert) pages of many brands, he continues, are not capturing customer information and using it to their advantage. So the company designed AegisLISA to listen, but also to analyze that information, and to facilitate the appropriate interaction. Through analysis, he says, AegisLISA can help a company understand which interactions gleaned from social networking are sales or service opportunities, for example. Then the engagement piece takes over to put in place the people, processes and tools to move on those opportunities.

If a brand name is used in forums on a company’s own Facebook page, or on another Facebook page or via Twitter (News - Alert), AegisLISA extracts that communication, brings it to a central site, analyzes it to understand if it’s a potential sales or service opportunity, and then enables engagement relating to that communication. Modi adds that AegisLISA also addresses reputation management by providing live agents who are trained to respond to specific customer concerns.

AegisLISA, which is available now, is already in use by several customers. That includes a telecom organization in South Africa, consumer goods companies, and a sports club. The sports club has expensive athletes with huge fan followings on social media, explains Modi, so the club wants to use AegisLISA to engage with those fans via social media and ensure athletes are responding to fans in a way that is appropriate and helps rather than harms the business.

The upfront cost of AegisLISA is around $10,000. Monthly fees fall into the $2,000 to $3000 a month range. And human resources costs are added to that based on the number of people required. But Modi says the payoff for these investments can be significant and can come in the form of brand reputation, sales and churn control.

HP is another company that recently announced a new offering that marries customer relationship management and social media. The solution, called HP Social Enterprise Services, was unveiled in mid April.

Dennison DeGregor, worldwide CRM executive at HP, notes that CRM has evolved from a push model into a customer engagement model in which peers management their relationships with other peers – and through that model have assumed control in terms of comparing products and pricing.

HP Social Enterprise Services, which is part of HP Customer Engagement Management, bring social media channels into contact centers to give organizations a holistic view of customers so they can better understand, serve and build products and services that appeal to those customers.

“Social media has become a game changer in company-customer interactions, and it needs to be integrated into an organization’s contact center,” says Danila Meirlaen, vice president of business process outsourcing at HP. “HP Social Enterprise Services take customer relations to a new level with analytic tools that make it easy to engage with customers via social networks, turning those interactions into positive outcomes for both the customer and organization.”

The solution includes two components that can be bundled or delivered separately. HP Agent Services was designed to enable organizations to engage with their customers in social media channel. HP Social Media Analysis helps businesses to extract information and insights on customers from social media.

HP’s new offers leverage technology from HP entities Autonomy (News - Alert), HP Labs and Vertica. HP Labs provides the analytics piece, and Vertica provides a data warehousing platform that can optimize the processing of data from Autonomy, DeGregor explains, adding that Autonomy analyzes unstructured data and makes it structured data that can be acted upon.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi