Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Capgemini.
Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’re listening to BriefingsDirect.
Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on the impact that social media is having on enterprises. We’ll specifically examine what steps businesses can take to manage social media as a market opportunity, rather than react to it as a hard-to-fathom threat.
Social media and the increased role that communities of users have on issues, discourse, and public opinion are changing the world in many ways, from how societies react such as in the Middle East turmoil, to how users flock to or avoid certain products and services.
The fact is that many people are now connected in new ways and they’re voicing opinions and influencing their peers perhaps more than ever before. Businesses cannot afford to simply ignore these global -- and what now appeared to be long-term -- social media trends.
We'll hear today from an executive at Capgemini on how social media matters and how services are being developed to help businesses to better understand and exploit the potential of social media far better. This is the first in the series of podcasts with Capgemini on social media issues and business process outsourcing. [Disclosure: Capgemini is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
Please join me now in welcoming our guest, Paul Cole, Vice President of Customer Operations Management and Business Process Outsourcing at Capgemini. Welcome to the show, Paul.
Paul Cole: Thank you very much, Dana.
Gardner: Paul, it seems a bit of a twisted logic when we say that social media can be both a threat and an opportunity. Let’s start at a fairly high level. How could social media be both to your average business?
Cole: It's all in how you decide to respond. Social media, in and of itself, is a neutral topic. It could be viewed as a utensil or a platform, upon which you can do things. And depending on your intent, whether you’re an enterprise or a customer, those activities could be viewed favorably or negatively. And that's true as much in the sociopolitical world as in business.
The important thing is that social media is the platform, not the action itself, and it’s really what you decide to do over that platform that makes the difference in business and in the world at large.
Gardner: We’ve had this kicking around for a few years. Some people really expect this to be a fad, a flash in the pan. I think it’s now safe to say that that's not the case. Do you have any evidence, research, or findings of any sort that bolster this notion that social media is a sea change and not just a blip?
Cole: Well, based on a survey we commissioned last winter, somewhat surprisingly, a bit more than one in 10 executives did characterize it as a fad relative to the business world.
However, you can look at it in the everyday world around us and the media as it relates to impact on society and in the sociopolitical spectrum, and there's very little doubt that it’s changing the game there. I believe it will have an equally profound impact on business over time.
Social media has become the bullhorn of the 21st century. It allows people to spread their message, to amplify that message, to mobilize the community, and also to monitor in real time the events as they unfold.
We are having to deal with it across the political, social, and cultural spectrums. Witness, unfortunately, the emergence of something that we’re now calling flash mobs, a case where the platform is being misapplied toward organizing a community of people who have damaging intentions.
So back to your question on threat or opportunity, significant or insignificant impact, it’s all based on the intent and actions of the individuals utilizing the utensil.
Gardner: On one hand, we seem to see a lack of control or at least different aspects to how people behave. We don’t have the necessary tools. But on the other hand, we're seeing a lot more information generated, and information often is the lifeblood of how organizations react and adjust to markets.
So what is it about this information? Maybe it’s being used and applied wrongly in some instances, but the fact is that people are providing more data and information about what it is they do, what they want, who they are. That to me is I think something quite new.
Cole: Information overload is one potential consequence of this. It’s all a matter of how you take that information and translate it into actionable insights, against which you can make some smarter business decisions, and from our perspective, ultimately deliver a better customer experience which will help you grow.
What’s neat about what’s happening in the world of technology, on top of the social environment, is that there is a whole new generation of tools emerging that allow you to develop that insight.
There are four steps that a company can go through to generate social intelligence. First, is listening to what is going on out there. There has not been an earpiece for us to really take the pulse of the market, and what's happening in the virtual world or the internet world until the recent development of some of these social listening tools. So the ability just to know what's going on, who is saying what, who are the influencers, what are their sentiments is an important first step.
The second step is the ability to monitor that over time and see how attitudes, perceptions, and most importantly, behaviors are changing and what are the impact and implication of that for your business, either from a marketing or a selling or customer service standpoint. In addition to monitoring that, you’re also now able, with text analytics tools to not simply track and describe what happening, but also isolate cause and effect.
So if I'm launching a Twitter campaign, putting a new product out there, running a contest, or engaging in some kind of social care activity, what is the impact it's having in terms of the customer’s behavior and what adjustments can I make to be more successful?
It's being able to get attribution and get to a root cause by applying these analytic tools. So you've listened, monitored, and analyzed. The killer app, if you will, is the last step of closing loop in terms of your ability to respond. So many companies today are putting their toe in the water in the social world by listening with these tools and trying to understand what's being said. It's new enough where not that many have actually industrialized their process for responding.
Ultimately, your ability to now go back into that community and influence the customer or attempt to influence the customer and their behavior is where there is a tremendous upside for companies in terms of generating higher growth and profit.
Gardner: We’ll discuss a bit more of how to do that, whether this is something that’s integrated into existing processes and functions in the business or it's something new. But, before we get into that, I’d like to hear about how Capgemini got involved?
How is Capgemini working toward some solutions on this? Maybe you could give us a little bit of background on the company as a whole, and we’d like to hear about how you got involved with the social media drive as well?
Cole: At one level, you could look at social media as a wave or a phenomenon. I’ve been in the professional services, technology services business for 30 years, and we’ve seen the waves come and go, whether that would be CRM or ERP through SAP or eCommerce, which I think this mirrors quite a bit, and Y2K. So there's always an emerging area that people will try to understand, chase, and then capitalize on.
As a global provider of consulting technology and outsourcing services, Capgemini attempts to keep its finger on the pulse of market. You have to be blind and deaf to not recognize that social media has quickly emerged on the scene. The question then becomes, as a provider of services, how to translate that into sets of offerings that add value for our clients.
My particular area of expertise is around customer management. So I look through the lens of how a company acquires, develops, and retains its customers and how can we manage some of that process for them in a faster, better, or cheaper manner. We do that today in traditional forms with managing their call centers or their customer service operations, helping them present stronger web content, providing them with insights through analytical services, and so forth.
What social media started to suggest to us was that there was a new opportunity to bring another service to the market that allowed clients to focus on the business problem that they’re trying to solve and provided us the opportunity to provide them with everything they needed to mobilize around that objective in the social world.
Gardner: Paul, we’ve recognized that having good conversations and communication from customers and markets into the company is important. It's how companies decide what new products and services they're going to undertake, and how to better market the services and products that they already have in production and delivery, and then also they need to communicate back out to the market in the form of helpdesk, service, support, marketing, and sales.
Social media seems to me to be just an amplification on existing channels. What we seem to be seeing is that organizations don't know quite how to execute on that. I think they recognize in many cases the opportunity, but they don't know who in the organization should be responsible, who runs herd on social media, how does it get integrated into these functions, or whether it's ingoing or outgoing communications outreach and support.
Do you have any sense of what's going on in those businesses, as they react to social media? What's the pattern if any in terms of who gets to run with this and what they're doing?
Cole: In and of itself, social media is not going to drive your business forward. As we've discussed, it's really a platform or a utility upon which you can engage customers for one or more activities based on a business objective. It does, at the end of the day, relate back to what you're trying to accomplish.
When I went to school, we were trained on the four Ps in marketing. You develop a product that the marketplace is interested in. You price that product at a level that the consumer or customer perceives value so they want to transact with you. You need to promote that in terms of distinguishing you against your competitors and bring that product to market with some form of distribution. We call that the four Ps.
Obviously you still need to do all those things, but in the social world now, there is a new twist. If you think about the product, we used to take a very linear approach to doing market research, testing concepts, via surveys and focus groups. In today’s social world, you can do that much more dynamically. There's a whole phenomenon around crowd sourcing with which you can solicit people's input and feedback and iterate on that massively, and closer to real time.
Your ability to get really close to the marketplace is enhanced tremendously by social media. In terms of promoting, it used to be broadcast media, but now you're able to do micro campaigns. You can do tweet campaigns. You can do campaigns through Facebook. Your ability to target the individual that you are trying to influence has gone up exponentially.
We've always talked about the segment of one, but it was very difficult to do. Now, you can get in there and really understand who is driving popular opinion, who are the big influencers, who do you need to convert to be an enthusiast or an advocate of your product, and launch very specific campaigns against them. It's a different form of promotion.
It's the same thing with pricing and distribution. While you still need to do many of the same activities, the way in which you will execute on those activities has evolved and become much more dynamic.
Gardner: How is this showing up in terms of ownership inside the organization?
Cole: Every function within the organization has a potential application in the social world. I don't think it's the kind of thing that any one executive or any one function is going to own per se.
It's a matter of looking at it through the lens of the process that you're responsible for, and trying to understand how to apply new thinking and activities to improve your efficiency or your effectiveness of that area. That could be public relations and the brand, marketing and developing effective positioning, product development and management, selling through more targeted campaigns or, at the end of the value chain, a better servicing of the customer to generate greater loyalty.
Gardner: One of the things that concerns me about how organizations adapt and adopt to solving their social media problems and capitalizing on it is that different organizations within the company will go at this in different ways.
This can probably lead to redundancy, probably lead to mixtures of data with different formats and we probably we'll find ourselves back in that same problem we have had with many applications. That is manual processes, different approaches to how to solve problems, and different data approaches. So you have this big integration problem in a couple of years.
Does it make sense for these organizations to look at social media as a platform, as you've been describing, with a common standardized governance and/or data approach, and therefore make those available as services to marketing, to the analytics and business intelligence folks, to the helpdesk and service management? Are we going to repeat history and have a fragmented approach to this or is there a better way?
Cole: You’ve really put your finger on a core issue. It all depends. What is social media? That depends on who you are and what you're trying to accomplish. That’s going to be variable based on your area of responsibility within the enterprise.
There is something to be said for standardization and taking a platform-based approach to avoid the recurring tendency of investing in your own individual solutions and then lacking interoperability or having to face integration issues and so forth.
While the application of what you do on top of the social platforms may vary, there is potential for the organization to operate as an enterprise on top of a single instance of a platform. That’s part of why we got into offering a managed service.
We allow the client to focus on what they are trying to do in the marketing, selling or customer service world. We provide them with the infrastructure, the technology, the process discipline, the data, and importantly, the social media advocates, the human intelligence layer that is ultimately conducting the monitoring and the analytics and the interpretation of what’s happening there.
By buying into a managed service the company can avoid having to make capital investments in the technology, avoid the potential risk of different groups going off and doing their own thing. They can remain current, because they don’t have to pay attention to this fast paced dynamic technology market and what is the state of the art. That would be our responsibility.
Hopefully, it's the best of both worlds. They can each, as user communities, decide what they want to get out of social media, but be able to leverage the fact that they're all investing in a common platform.
Gardner: Social media isn’t the only trend buffeting up against businesses nowadays. There's cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), mobility, and increased devices, and these are global trends, not by any stretch relegated to one or two markets or regions.
Commonality with cloud and SaaS
Is there an opportunity here for recognizing that the social media and the cloud and the SaaS approaches have some commonality. Where I'm going with this is that a social media metadata about what users are thinking and doing, could be a cloud resource and better positioned there so that that same data can be delivered and updated and managed.
If you come from a data-management background, you might recognize that having a system of record in a good, clean copy that’s updated and then sharing it is a great thing. Do you have any thoughts about how cloud and social come together to help organizations capture the best data and provide the best services when it comes to social media and its offspring?
Cole: Again, it’s just part of the evaluation of technology. It is a different way of storing, distributing, and accessing the data. What it translates into for us is the ability to provide process as a service. That’s a fundamental shift in the marketplace that’s occurring as a result of the development of cloud capabilities.
Organizations can just tap into a service, and that makes it easier for them to get into a new area. It’s faster, it’s less expensive. We're trying to apply that same concept to social media. We can provide a faster, better, and/or cheaper approach. The client buys the process as a service on a subscription model.
We assure the integrity and security of the data. We provide the data management, the repository, the infrastructure, and the toolset. You're buying a service around a process, whether that be listening to your customers, wanting to launch marketing campaigns, providing social care or whatever.
The whole SaaS cloud phenomenon is just changing the distribution model and also facilitating an easier approach for companies to get up and running in this area.
Gardner: Paul, do we have any examples, use cases that you’re aware of on a named basis or anonymous, or perhaps even how Capgemini itself is using social media to its own effect. Do we have any actual examples of how this works and what it actually can accomplish?
Cole: While we're early in the evolution of social business and its potential impact on profitable growth, there are plenty of examples out there of early successes. We’ve probably done 20 programs. Where it’s proving to be most successful so far is in products and service areas where there is a high degree of passion or involvement.
If we look at hospitality, automobiles, or electronic games, we’re finding a high degree of engagement, involvement of customers, and a high degree of interest in sharing their perspective. We’ve done support for marketing campaigns for a new launch for an adult beverage, where we were able to help our clients tweak their campaign geographically and in terms of the market segment it’s gone after.
Reduce call volume
For another client that supplies gift cards to the big brands, we help them understand customer service in an attempt to reduce the call volume into their call center because we were able to isolate the problem quickly, fix it and broadcast the message.
For a global retailer of furnishings, we were able to isolate on a particular segment that they felt have been underserved and understanding their motivations for using the store, and helping them create a new positioning against that segment.
Gardner: It’s impressive to me that social media can have so many different impacts, that it can be used and/or perhaps come in with a disadvantage, but it’s impactful at so many levels.
It seems to me that this notion of social media management then is really important. It’s not just executing on any one of them, but really having that holistic approach. Maybe you could explain a bit more what you mean by social media management in addition to these ways in which it can be so useful.
Cole: First of all, in terms of its all-encompassing kind of influence, there are strong parallels to the early Internet days, in the '90s, where everyone knew that there was a sea change occurring in the nature of how we could interact and exchange values in business.
But it wasn’t quite clear yet how that was going to reveal itself. So it was a bit of a fad or a shiny new object, but ultimately it became another channel. It found its equilibrium, and companies learned how to conduct business over the Internet, as opposed to the traditional face to face, over the phone, or whatever, or through the retail channel.
Similarly with social media, at the moment it’s a little bit of a "du-jour" phenomenon. We’ve got to do it, but over time it will settle down and companies will interpret it as a platform that they could do all kinds of things on and actually add another channel.
They need to manage the channel. It may sound somewhat antithetical to say social needs to be managed, because really what we’re talking about in the social world is influencing communities. I'm not sure that it is manageable, but we want to provide them with a service that helps them manage customers' perceptions and actions.
Gardner: Lastly, Paul, I'm interested in how organizations can get started. This seems to be one of those issues where it has so many implications It's rather complex. Getting started, knowing where to actually put a stake in the ground and get moving can be daunting.
Where do you suggest that folks get started on how they pursue social media management and perhaps then look to outsource it and find that platform benefit approach.
Trying to understand
Cole: As evidence of the fact that it is a new phenomenon, you can just notice the volume of conferences that are out there with social media in the title. It just reinforces that companies are trying to understand still what "good" looks like. They’re out there looking for best practices. They are still paying for "PowerPoint," for consultants to come in and help them understand the strategy, the power of social, what that translates into in terms of metrics and governance, and so forth.
The market is very much in its exploratory stage. I'm not sure you can over-architect what social media means to you at the moment. This is something that you have to get in and dip your toe in the water. Instead of "ready, aim, fire," it's probably "fire, fire, aim, ready, fire." This means that you need to iterate.
You don’t know what you don’t know….. until you get in to the market and you start to listen to what is happening out there, identify who the key influencers are, where they're talking about, who are the advocates for the brand, and who are the potential saboteurs who can represent a threat? What are some of the kinds of programs and activities that one can run?
Rather than the grand strategies, the big-bang approach, this particular area is deserving of more experimentation, and iteration. Then, over time, we need the development of a broader strategy. But, you need to get in there, and listen, and learn, and act, and from that you'll figure out what works and what doesn’t work.
Gardner: I suppose it's the targeted pilot program approach and then iterating from that?
Cole: Exactly. Part of what we’re trying to offer our clients is the ability to do that faster than doing it themselves, where they have to go out, acquire the tools, hire the people, and put in place the processes.
In this case, they can say we want to launch a campaign and we’d like to understand how we can use the social world to solve customer service problems or whatever. We provide all the tools and capabilities to do that. They focus on learning and evolving their strategy of what to do in the social world.
Gardner: It seems pretty clear that these tools and platforms aren’t necessarily themselves differentiators. It's what you do with the information that they provide that is the real business value.
Cole: That is true, but on the other hand, part of what we offer is the ability to bring to them the best of the tools that are out there, and it's an evolving world. We've worked with a myriad of software products in trying to understand what capabilities can be best applied to understanding the customer and engaging with them.
As part of that, in our Social Media Management Solution, we’ve built a joint solution with a company called Attensity, which really comes at the market initially from the text analytics world, but offers a nice suite of applications that enable your ability to listen, monitor, analyze what's being done, and then respond to the customer in terms of workflow and direct customer engagement. So it's what you decide to do, but it's also having the right toolset with which to do it.
Gardner: Are there any places to which we could direct our listeners and readers for additional information, perhaps whitepapers, other research, and/or more information on your services?
Cole: Certainly capgemini.com. We do have a featured social media section on the website. We've recently published a whitepaper called "Harvesting the Fruit from the Social Media Grapevine". We hope that clients will find that insightful. It's a bit of a point-of-view on where the market is today and where it's headed. That can be downloaded off of our website.
Gardner: You've been listening to a sponsored podcast discussion on how social media matters and how services are being developed to help businesses better manage and understand social media for their advantage, and move beyond the threat.
I want to thank our guest. We’ve been here with Paul Cole, Vice President of Customer Operations Management and Business Process Outsourcing at Capgemini. Thanks so much, Paul.
Cole: Thank you very much, Dana. I appreciate it.
Gardner: This is the first in a series of podcasts with Capgemini on social media and business process outsourcing. Look for additional podcasts on these topics across the BriefingsDirect network.
This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks again for listening, and come back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Sponsor: Capgemini.
Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on how businesses need to respond to a marketplace changed by social media mechanisms. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2011. All rights reserved.
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