Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Social Media as Sales Tool

Recently, head of an NGO asked me if social media was indeed useful for an organization. Do 'likes' translate to anything tangible for organizations?

While pursuing MBA, one term from accountancy that stuck in my mind is Deferred Revenue Expenditure. Though an expense, it is not entirely treated so. Advertising is one such example. I consider Social Media (or for that matter PR) also as deferred revenue expenditure. However, the return does not necessarily have to be in the long term!

After the experience with the bus company about which I wrote in my previous post, my belief has changed.

Internet is the only medium that empowers organizations to both market and register sales. Social Media platforms can act as great sales tools and generate revenues in addition to being a branding medium, customer service platform, and community builder. This is especially when organizations have a strong social media response team. 
If you read the previous post, you would note that I had already paid the organization for the tickets. When the website failed to record the transaction, all that the Twitter executive had to do was to take details of my booking and book it on the system directly.
In order to leverage social media for sales, organizations have to put in place systems and procedures.
  1. Integrate with the Sales: The social media platforms and representatives must be integrated with the sales process and systems. Reskilling maybe required for professionals to handle sales. The only worry is that organization can overdo it by attempting outbound. That is when social media can become what telesales has become.
  2. Robust payment process: One of the biggest concerns would probably be to do financial transaction. With technology intervention and processes, organizations can ensure that customer data is safe. For example, bank details for transfer should be published and customers can be provided a reference number for every transaction. A wallet system can also be created if required. In fact, it would make immense sense for Twitter to develop systems that allow transaction by allowing the platform be tightly integrated with enterprise software.

Once the systems are in place, not only ‘likes’ but also ‘dislikes’ can be converted into a revenue opportunity.

Social media channels provide a readymade platform for sales. With customers interacting with organizations more frequently over these channels, it should serve as a revenue earner and not merely deferred revenue expenditure.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cardinal Sins of Communication

Recently, I used the website of an upcoming bus service provider in Europe to book tickets. There were a couple of payment options. The option I chose did not work when I tried. 
I raised the issue with the organization through an email. As I was in a hurry, I also tweeted to the handle and posted a message on the Facebook page. 
I got an immediate response from the Twitter handle that the particular payment option was available. After a bit of painful search on the website, I found the option in a microsite. I booked the tickets immediately. However, I did not get any confirmation and tickets were not delivered. 
The next day I received a response for the mail that I had sent. The contact centre reported that there were some technical issues with the particular payment option and that I should not use that option. It took some effort before I could get the refund. 
In the process, I made some notes, which in my opinion are relevant to any organization. Here are some cardinal sins that one must not commit while communicating. 
  1. Don't commit to anything on the website if it is not deliverable, even temporarily.The organization could have removed the payment option until such a time that they sort out the issue. At least communicate it actively on the site through a banner or a pop-up that the service was down temporarily. 
  2. Different channels, one message: In the experience that I narrated, the email contact centre had the correct response but was slow, Twitter response did not but was quick to respond, and Facebook response was non-committal. Remember this is all from the same organization! The consumer facing channels should have the same responses and not be working in silos.  
  3. Standard turnaround time: While on Twitter, most organizations respond with lightning speed. On the other hand, email responses are not so. While each channel is different, is it impossible to have similar turnaround times? 
If you were responsible for managing the communication channels in your organization what would be your priorities?
What sins would you like to avoid?