At the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference, the key topics ranged from developing open and collaborative cultures, to integrating social business software that brings together brand monitoring and customer engagement tools via the Social Web. While there is still room for discussion over which Web 2.0 solutions are best, by now it is fairly obvious that we are at a tipping point in the design of the New Social Enterprise. The challenges are twofold: first, many of these applications are developed in a way that forces enterprises to modify core business processes, which is a non-starter for most companies, particularly in a tough economic environment. Second, most of these solutions are not designed at the start to embrace multi-channel interactions like social media, site-specific CRM systems, or community based forums. As a result, many enterprises are grudgingly being pulled into endorsing partial solutions to social software collaboration spawned independently by departments seeking to close the gap between their customer and their sliver of overall enterprise/customer relationship. If this problem doesn’t get addressed quickly, many of these early efforts will fail, and IT departments may force enterprises to retrench. How is the Social Web transforming the way most large enterprises do business? The transformation of enterprises via the Social Web will take place on two fronts, new technologies and new user behavior trends. On the tech side, Web 2.0 technologies including social computing, enterprise mobility and personalization will change the systems that employees and their customers rely upon for effective communication and collaboration. We can expect personalization to get even more sophisticated going forward, with enterprises more routinely using context-aware computing to better target and optimize content around user behavior. Enterprise organizations will gain more customer insights from technologies that gather data from a multitude of customer touch points, resulting in more personalized service for consumers. On the user behavior side, we are starting to see a rise in expectations for a better customer experience that is simple, clean, and fast. The highly visual social platforms have set the standard for interactions with enterprise, and have changed user expectations across the board. Consumers now presume they can reach customer service or critical support functions 24/7 across multiple touch points and through different devices. Customer care agents should have instant access to their profile data, buying history, and preferences and be prepared to make customized recommendations just for them. How should enterprise begin to address integration of the Social Web?
- Start with a customer-centric strategy that embraces new interaction patterns but doesn’t sabotage core systems of record. The Web has empowered consumers to do more for themselves across all channels of communication, but particularly through online mobile interactions. Enterprise should build on this trend by leveraging technology to smooth out processes that involve “on-ramping” or interacting with customers through mobile platforms. New self-service or “assisted service” platforms can be deployed that solve industry problems like effectively enrolling new customers, or creating more personal and effective interactions with customers who experience service issues. Holiday Inn, for example, has announced plans to test smartphones as hotel room keys in order to bypass the waiting at the front desk, similar to what several airlines have experimented with for boarding passes. Simplifying the hotel room-key hand-off moment was a major goal of the enterprise, as this is one of the most important determinants of a positive customer experience for guests. This plan makes sense on many levels, and it leverages existing devices (smartphones) to create a better customer experience without changing any of the core enterprise processes (reservation systems, security systems, etc.) that are necessary to run a hotel smoothly.
- Embrace the Web as the hub of all customer interaction and be prepared to respond to interaction that happens across any channel. The Web will continue to grow as the central point of communication between the enterprise and its customers. This provides an opportunity to gain a new kind of customer insight by capturing brand sentiment in real time. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discussed a situation where a guest at the Orlando World Marriott posted a negative tweet about his hotel room. The front desk immediately sent a note of apology and upgraded the guest to a pool-view room. There are 65 million tweets per day and 20% of them are brand related. By listening to customers across the entire Web, enterprise can react quickly, and forge stronger relationship with customers.
- Plan for personalization. To truly create a one to one relationship with customers, enterprise must leverage the Social Web to learn more about them. This enables better service levels and more efficient handling of customer needs. A good example of this strategy can be found in the Starbucks announcement that they will offer free Wi-Fi starting in July with the primary goal of offering customers a better experience, while all the while learning more about what they do when they are immersed in the Starbuck’s experience. The Starbuck’s Digital Network is a proprietary “launching point” featuring local content and providing access to pay sites like the Wall Street Journal. So why is Starbucks’ going to all this trouble? Schultz stated that he wants to create new sources of content that you can only get at Starbucks, personalized for the Starbuck’s customer. This is true, but there is more to it than that. This is a smart customer retention strategy with personalization at its core. As Forbes CMO Network pointed out, the plan could open new gateways for Starbucks to collect insight about its customers which can be used to enable custom offers. This personalization not only creates new revenue opportunities, but can be a valuable customer benefit that increases long-term brand loyalty to Starbucks.
So what does Social really mean for enterprise? The Social Web is like a tsunami that will wash over the enterprise industry and change all of the legacy norms. Companies can use this inflection point in the marketplace to design experiences that reinforce a connected customer culture made up of consistent and valuable interactions at existing and new points of the customer experience. By focusing on the business value of the Social Web, we have an opportunity to close the loop between enterprise and customers, and to move the industry forward by truly improving the customer experience and driving real ROI for large enterprises through the Social Web.