Telcos missing from social media conversation with customers

Fiona Chau
18 Jun 2014

Social media has emerged as a crucial tool for telcos to engage customers, but few are taking advantage of it.

Rob van den Dam, global communications industry leader at IBM Institute for business value, said that the web, social media and word-of-mouth now dominate the traditional channels for users seeking information related to telco products and services.

“These channels not only offer alternative communication options to consumers, but also empower them to take control of telecom operator’s reputation and even influence their business decisions,” van den Dam said at the CommunicAsia2014 Summit Tuesday.

According to a recent IBM survey, which surveyed almost 22,000 consumers in 35 countries, 69% of people in emerging markets use social media to evaluate telecom providers and their products and services, while 33% in mature markets do the same.

Social media is especially popular for consumers under age 25 as a top source of information, van den Dam said. Word of mouth is also becoming important as a key factor in shopping for products and services.

Van den Dam advised telcos to rethink of their advertising strategy and become more proactive in understanding service issues by monitoring social networks to understand sources of dissatisfaction, not least because less than half of customers call contact centers when they have a problem Ð they’re more likely to take their grievances to social media.

Some telcos have already embarked on their social media journeys and are doing quite well. India’s Bharti Airtel, for instance, is analyzing social networks to discover customer problems. Any mention of Airtel on Facebook, Orkut, Twitter and other sites is captured, and customer reps contact the customer to get the issues resolved, van den Dam said.

However, most telcos are failing to use social media in an effective way to engage customers or enable them to provide feedback, due to a lack of a cohesive social media plan and problems with measuring ROI, he noted.

“Either they’re underprepared for the necessary cultural changes, unsure about impact of social business over next three years or have a limited understanding of the business value they intend to obtain,” he said.

Other barriers include competitive priorities or initiatives, legal and security concerns, and lack of appropriate technology, he added. “For example, if [telcos] are investing in LTE, then social media would not be a priority.”

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