Companies increasingly value customer conversations through online and offline media, and 40% engage customers in conversations about their brands or sectors, double the proportion who did so in 2010, according to a June 2012 report from InSites Consulting, in partnership with SSI and No Problem!. 69% of the 1,222 senior managers surveyed from companies across 6 markets (Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the US) claim they answer questions they are asked by customers both offline and online, and those companies are frequently proactive: 37% say they start the conversation, for example, with polling questions on public forums, to gain input and feedback from customers.
The report defines a conversation as any 2-way engagement with a customer, chiefly to answer questions about a product, brand, or company, or to listen to customer feedback.
Companies Cultivate Transparency and Share Information
Data from “The Future of the 4 Cs Of The Conversation Company” indicates that companies claim to be transparent in their conversations with customers, with 69% of managers believing their companies admit mistakes and apologize to customers when necessary. But they are less transparent with their own employees: just 38% share the results of customer conversations with their employees. The presumed benefit of internal sharing is that internal employees can improve processes to serve customers, or can act as brand champions. This is especially important if, as the report suggests, 57% allow employees to participate in conversations with customers and clients–not just the service facing employees (e.g. from customer service or sales), but employees from management and more behind-the-scenes functions.
1 in 2 Are Self-Made Conversers
About half of companies manage conversation management internally, while the other half outsources it to, for example, PR firms and marketing agencies. The key reasons for outsourcing are lack of internal competence (e.g. no trained spokespeople) and cost avoidance.
Social media is one channel that can be used to engage customers: overall, 44% are encouraged to communicate online with customers and consumers through social media.
These respondents may want to take a cue from retailers: according to a Multichannel Merchant survey released earlier this month, merchants are increasingly using social media to monitor mentions and engage with customers, and using the sites less as prospecting tools. 74% are using social to engage in conversation with consumers, up from 68.9% in 2011. At the same time, just 3 in 5 are trying to prospect for new customers through social media; last year, this was the top use, by 71.7%.
About the Data: InSites Consulting together with sample and data collection partner SSI and the translation agency No Problem! conducted a quantitative online survey among 1,222 senior managers from Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, the US and the UK. Respondents were senior or top managers from companies with 20+ full time employees, across business sectors.