How Web 2.0 could improve on customer relationships
The advent of Web 2.0 technologies provides marketers with a way to change how they interact with customers, perhaps improving service levels and consequently increasing sales, according to web self-service provider Transversal.
There are a number of technologies that fall into the so-called 'Web 2.0' category of communication channels, all of which could be used to get closer to customers, including two way internet-based interactions, personalisation, RSS feeds, and blogs, among others.
What's Web 2.0 really about? Web 2.0 is the general (and often misunderstood and misused) umbrella term for new technologies and techniques that enable users to drive greater personalisation and interaction with web sites. Examples include social networking sites such as YouTube and MySpace, blogging and 'Wiki' sites (such as Wikipedia).
But the challenge for marketers, Transversal says, lies in selecting and implementing the right Web 2.0 techniques to positively enhance both brand and sales.
More satisfaction, more sales "The advent of Web 2.0 opens up communication between organisations and their customers, enabling unprecedented personalisation as users drive how they interact with brands of all sizes," explained Dee Roche, head of strategy and marketing for Transversal. "This is the perfect opportunity to increase customer satisfaction and interaction. Customer service departments should be at the forefront of adopting Web 2.0 techniques, and use them to build stronger relationships based on listening to customers and responding to their needs."
For example, Transversal's own technology use information that customers provide as a by-product of interacting with companies (such as where they are on a web site and what they are searching for) to adjust the information they are given online. An intelligent web self-service interface can also act as a platform for other interaction technologies and response mechanisms such as chat, virtual sales agents, RSS feeds, and opt-ins for product news and offers - and all based on how customers interact with the web site initially.
Benefits and pitfalls Transversal suggests that the benefits and potential pitfalls of Web 2.0 vary across business sectors, though. For example, financial services organisations have to meet stringent compliance and security regulations, so providing unmonitored user groups and blogs would be inappropriate, as consumers could make a poor financial decision based on a user group post and then hold the organisation liable for the result. Instead, providing access to independent financial product reviews and articles, based on customer interaction, through RSS feeds could deliver better service without fear of later litigation.
For product-based companies, the provision of after-sales support through blogs and user groups would be a much better way of interacting with customers. Sony Computer Entertainment UK is using Transversal's web self-service software to support the PlayStation 3, providing customers with answers to their questions online. The company has even launched a technical forum where users can help each other get the most out of the technology and solve problems together.
Which technologies come first? Transversal's top ten Web 2.0 technologies for having a positive impact on customer service are:
- Interaction Use channels to provide human interaction and take on board customer feedback. These could include real time chat, instant messenger or 'linguabots'.
- Personalisation Deliver a personalised experience by providing tailored content in response to queries, such as special offers or added information.
- RSS Keep customers and partners updated with changes to areas of interest automatically through RSS feeds.
- User communities Build communities that enable users to exchange information and help self-support.
- Blogging Engage in dialogue with customers through relevant and tailored blogs.
- Social networking Build links with relevant social networks through interaction and posting tailored information.
- Search engine optimisation Tailor your web site to ensure that queries are pushed quickly to the correct page from internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo.
- Tagging Allow users to rate usefulness of answers and information provided to gather valuable feedback on customer service effectiveness.
- Wikis Use wikis to share information quickly - particularly for a technical or internet-savvy audience.
- Podcasts Make information and updates available through channels other than your web site - for example through podcasts or video updates.