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ibm-customer-engagement-methods-may2012.jpgSocial media will become one of the dominant customer engagement tools in the next 3-5 years, despite being the least utilized tool for interaction today, according to [download page] an IBM survey of more than 1700 global CEOs released in May 2012. Although only 16% currently engage customers through social media, 57% anticipate doing so in the few years, a proportion that places the channel behind only face-to-face methods of interaction (67%), and ahead of websites (55%) and call centers (31%). Social media’s rise will likely cost traditional media, currently used by 39%, but forecast to drop to just 15% utilization.

CEOs appear to be on the right track in focusing on social media for customer engagement : according to a study released in December 2011 by the CMO Council in partnership with Lithium, customer engagement and insights are the top benefits of social media marketing.

Customers Seen Top Target for Additional Insights

Indeed, data from IBM’s “Leading Through Connections” suggests that CEOs have a strong interest in gaining deeper insights into their customers. 73% of the respondents indicated that they will be making significant investments into the ability to pull significant customer insights from their available data. This was the only insight area to achieve a healthy majority: roughly half are looking to invest in operations and sales insights, while a minority are looking to bolster their insights into markets and competitors.

7 in 10 Want To Better Understand Customer Needs

Gaining these additional insights into customers will require and result in an improved understanding of individual customer needs, which 72% of the respondents are recognizing a need for. The same proportion are looking to improve their response time to market needs, while a majority also are focused on harmonizing customer experiences across channels. Increased transparency and corporate accountability (47%), as well as increased social and environmental responsibility (44%) are of relatively less importance.

Other Findings:

  • Outperformers (organizations that surpass industry peers in terms of revenue growth and profitability) are more than twice as likely as underperformers to say they have access to data and are able to draw insights from data (both at 54% vs. 26%). They are also 84% more likely to say they are able to translate insight into action (57% vs. 31%).
  • CEOs in education (77%), telecommunications (73%) and retail (72%) are the most likely to see social media being a critical channel for consumer engagement in the next 3-5 years. Those from the electronics (52%), insurance (51%), and industrial products (34%) sectors are relatively less likely to see social media’s role.

About the Data: The IBM data is based on face to face interviews with 1,709 CEOs and senior public sector leaders conducted between September 2011 and January 2012. The CEOs lead organizations of different sizes in 64 countries and 18 industries. 68% are in mature markets and 52% lead global or multinational organizations.

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