Capgemini: Harvest the Fruits of Social Media – Paul Cole

Social networking presents multiple opportunities for companies, including the ability to find out what customers really think about their organisation in real time. Paul Cole, global leader of customer operations BPO at Capgemini, explains how its solution helps companies take full advantage of new media.

The world of social media continues to grow exponentially, and companies around the globe are looking to benefit by deploying social networking initiatives. While Facebook recently passed the 600 million users milestone in six years, a new study from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research found that 85% of companies using the site view it as a successful marketing tool.

Paul Cole, global leader of customer operations BPO at Capgemini, notes that although many businesses have yet to think about outsourcing their social media efforts, it is gradually increasing in popularity. "I think as the world of BPO matures and clients feel more comfortable with a globally distributed model for getting work done, and using third parties to do that, they are beginning to look at additional and more strategic processes," he says.

He adds that the notion of customer relationship management (CRM) has not changed. "What has changed are the places where companies interact with the customer, and the technologies and tools that are used to influence them," Cole explains. "Today, companies are able to conduct market research studies such as surveys in real time and more dynamically. Organisations can now run virtual focus groups on social platforms and listen to what customers say to each other, so they can find out if customers are bad-mouthing their products."

Capgemini believes that the rise of public and corporate-specific networks, combined with the existing direct channels of communication, has created the need for end-to-end, closed-loop customer conversation management. Cole says that his company has created a solution that brings together social CRM, case management and business process outsourcing, to keep ahead of this emerging trend. It offers clients a solution, developed in partnership with Pegasystems and Attensity, to help companies understand how to effectively interact with their customers across all channels, especially in the virtual world of social networking.

"We are directly influencing customer interactions and outcomes, and this is integrated with the company's business processes," he says. "Our solution enables our clients to get into the social world faster and at a lower risk. We tell them not to go out and invest in all this new technology, or hire a bunch of very expensive onshore marketing MBAs. It's coming on to companies so rapidly that they should turn to a provider for which this is a core competence, and buy it on a subscription basis.

"We give our clients different levels of insight into what's going on out there, but also provide that back to them on a flatline subscription basis so that they can concentrate their efforts and resources on making the right business decisions," he continues. "We will focus on listening for them, monitoring the flowing information, analysing what's happening, reporting it back to our client and helping them act on it."

Cole cites an example of how social media analytics helped an organisation to defuse a potentially harmful situation. In 2010 an employee of airline company JetBlue lost his temper, activated an emergency chute and slid away. The company responded to practically every tweet about the incident and its reputation remained intact. JetBlue automatically extracts customer satisfaction, sentiment and loyalty from social media feedback to provide analysts and managers with deeper insights.

Helping clients manage customer relationships is a focus area for Capgemini, and Cole says that its service delivers improved cost savings and operating performance while raising the bar of customer care excellence.

As a result, clients can resolve issues before they escalate to a higher-cost level of support. The company can therefore take a proactive approach and solve issues that are common to multiple customers.

Capgemini notes that the relationship between a company and its customer is one that needs to be constructed carefully. The provider believes that an ongoing relationship builds trust over time and allows companies to build a more human, emotional connection with its customers. It adds that while no organisation gets this right every time, people easily forgive when there is real transparency.

"I think we are entering into a world where transparency and trust become highly featured," concludes Cole. "Companies that do the best job at establishing trust with their customers and not abusing the privilege of analysing what they're doing for their own sake are the ones that will build the strongest brand. This is how Capgemini, with our solution, views data privacy, data security and data management.

"It's funny, you used to establish trust with a handshake and a smile and now you have to do that with a set of protocols on the web."