Social networks seen as valuable customer data source
Many companies, in the UK at least, are still failing to combine their offline and online customer intelligence to create an all-round picture of their clients' attitudes and behaviour, according to predictive analytics firm SPSS, which advocates the collection of consumer insight from every possible channel - including online social networks and consumer review web sites.
By not combining traditional customer records with social media information from blogs, newsgroups, chats, opinion portals and communities, SPSS warns that businesses are missing out on market research opportunities.
Social media is certainly a sign of the technical emancipation of consumers, who are no longer prepared to rely on information provided by companies and are keen to share their own experiences and views.
Trawling the net for customer data According to Neil Hartley, UK country manager for SPSS, the company is already working with companies such as France Telecom to trawl through unstructured text on social media web sites, using natural language processing technology to discover customers' views, and to spot emerging trends.
Customer opinions that are expressed on social media sites are often far more candid than those collected through traditional market research methods and surveys, providing more accurate insight into customer behaviour and attitudes.
Risking the relationship However, many companies are still treating online and offline activity as isolated phenomena, leaving them with a distorted view of customers and their opinions. This, SPSS suggests, could even be so significant a failure as to put the success of CRM programmes at risk.
"By combining social media online analysis with existing customer data, companies can develop their business activities to better meet customer demands and maintain that all important competitive edge," Hartley concluded.