Socialing: even the appliances sector is connected

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The web is becoming more and more important in the relationship between the home appliance companies and their customers. A proactive strategy of “social customer-care” requires the development of channels, Apps and relationship activities shared with the client to respond to his requests.

The household appliance sector has discovered the social networks for some time. The most curious case (and interesting as an example of “collaborative consumption”) is the social network called “La Machine du voisin”, created by some French guys. This social network allows you to identify if, in your area, there is a person providing the usage of his washing machine to those who haven’t it, for a modest sum, with a calendar of availability of the owner. If consumers are so active in inventing new solutions, they are equally so in talking about their experiences on products and brands on the web. Globally, entertainment, consumer electronics and household appliances are the categories in which the influence of social networks is strongest. Surveys report that the impact of the customer service on the choices is impressive: 70% of customers stop buying the products of a company after a bad experience or if the customer service is inadequate, and many of them will talk about it on the Internet. Companies in these sectors are not yet as fast and creative in using social networks as their customers, even though a survey presented last year by the “Observatory Brands & Social Media” of the Cattolica University identified Nokia as the company with the better position in the sector of technical consumer goods. The interconnections between people and the evolution of the technological tools generate an exponential growth in the quantity of information in circulation. To filter and to discern that information is increasingly important for the companies operating in the consumer goods markets. The customer is in fact more active “where he wants”, not only on the customer care traditional channels provided by the company: for example he chooses social networks, forums and blogs. New disciplines and practices derive from this phenomenon: the Social Intelligence and the Social Customer Relationship Management (s-CRM). A recent American study reveals that only 13% of the major U.S. companies believe to make good use of the social media. The main reasons for the use of the social media are three: to increase the brand awareness (87% of cases), to increase the web traffic (62%), and to improve the company reputation (61%). But is it advantageous to misuse the social networks? A research of Oracle, released a few months ago, shows that companies can lose 18% of their annual turnover due to a bad customer experience: even though the companies are fully aware of it, they struggle to develop specific strategies. In fact, only 36% of the respondents are launching a formal initiative for the customer experience, and only 20% think that the situation should be improved. Francesco Grigolo, Innovation Director at E-Care, a company specialized in CRM services and Contact Center, explains the role of the social networks and the social CRM strategies, of which he spoke during a recent workshop of ASAP Service Management Forum. “The most customer service oriented networks (and therefore the most fundamental networks to observe) are Facebook, for the high number of registered users, and Twitter, for the speed of the communication. However, there is a galaxy of social networks, blogs and forums (also highly specialized), where users with a strong level of influence over the other consumers “hide themselves”: these should be monitored. Users with a high number of connections, in fact, can exponentially amplify the diffusion of an information on the Web and, if they speak badly of a brand or a product, can bring to very negative effects”.

SOCIAL NETWORKS AND CUSTOMER SERVICE
Social networks are becoming an important channel for the customer service. According to the “Social Media Report 2012” by Nielsen, about half of U.S. consumers contacts the brands to express satisfaction, to send a complaint or to request information. One out of three users says to preferably use the social networks rather than the phone or other instruments. Therefore, to develop a strategy for the customer care or the CRM that also uses the social world can become an important success factor for a company.

What are the basic steps of a s-CRM strategy? Three, summarized in the words Listening, Profile and Action
Listening. It means to monitor what happens on the social networks. “Even if a company acts as if it covers his ears – Grigolo says – the consumers continue to talk on Internet”. The listening is an essential step, not only to know how much the users talk about the company, but also how they talk about the company”. This step is now quite widespread in the world of consumer goods, although not all companies have an adequate coverage of the social world, and especially an adequate capacity to discern the content of the discussions. Some complex software allow the mapping of the social networks and allow to discern how much and how the consumers talk about a brand through ontological, semantic and statistical engines”.
Profile. It consists in understanding where (what community) and how our customers speak, in order to define a strategy of response. What is the “reach” (the diffusion level of the messages “twitted” by our customer) for example? What are the social networks where the users are more active when they talk about us? Who are the people who talk about our brand and have a greater ability to influence the others (thanks to the high number of connections)?
Action. Monitoring and understanding is not enough. A proactive strategy of social customer care requires the development of channels, applications and relationship activities with the client to respond to his requests, even if he didn’t directly show them to the company. “Compared to the traditional CRM, the evolution of the social CRM puts the customer at the beginning of the decision-making chain about product, service and customer care”, says Francesco Grigolo. The creation of a closer and continuous relationship with the customer increases the level of satisfaction and generates a direct involvement, in which the customer is not only input of the process, but he helps to build the brand value. Thus, we find companies that create specific channels for the customer care on Twitter, web applications for the customer service associated with a Facebook page, specific mobile applications, etc…

Conclusions
The practices of social CRM allow not only to recover dissatisfied customers (they would have been lost, having not otherwise track), but also to avoid the negative influence that the diffusion (exponential!) of their opinions via social networks could generate. This opens many new chapters, however, for the companies: from the skills of who manages these channels, to the organizational models of customer care, to the definition of the processes, to the support tools. The latters, in a period of great attention to costs, may act as a winning strategy. The activation of social channels, in addition to the already mentioned advantages, also allows to reduce the volume of the contacts through the traditional channels (for example contact centers), increasing the efficiency of the customer service processes. With the same objective, the companies can develop Mobile Apps and Web Apps through which the client can directly do customer service operations. In a quickly changing environment there are many opportunities, but a lot of experimentation is needed: the social is a road that can offer differentiation and competitive advantage to manufacturers and retailers of household appliances.

ITALIANS: HOW MUCH TIME THEY SPEND ON THE SOCIAL MEDIA?
About two hours a day, according to a research conducted by the agency We Are Social and entitled “Social, Digital & Mobile in Europe 2014”. According to the study, Italians exceed, for example, Germans (1.3 hours) and British (1.6 hours), confirming their growing interest in these media. Since people more and more accede to the Internet while they are doing other activities, it's natural that the diffusion of the mobile devices is heavily pushing also the use of the social media, making easier to share opinions, pictures and contents everywhere. Smartphones, in particular, have a penetration of 41% on the total Italian population: 92% of the owners of these devices uses them to search for information and 46% uses social applications from the mobile devices (people who accede to the social media are 19.8 million).