Verint recently announced enhancements to its Social Engagement solution, which support an integrated multi-departmental approach for managing and enriching customers’ social interactions.

While many organizations have embraced social media as a marketing and promotion channel, customers are increasingly using it to request service as well. These latest advancements to Verint Social Engagement are designed to help organizations coordinate and meet disparate social engagement needs and support the end-to-end management of customer care requirements.

Loyalty360 caught up with Kelly Koelliker, Director of Solutions Marketing, Verint, to find out more about how loyalty marketers are managing social media.

How are loyalty marketers leveraging social media with an eye toward customer loyalty, and how much have things changed in the past two years?

Koelliker: The way loyalty marketers leverage social media to impact customer allegiance has changed rapidly over the past two years. One of the biggest changes is that consumers are increasingly more comfortable using multiple channels, including social media. Online communities—in particular, Facebook and Twitter—present vast customer service opportunities, but also require management and care similar to traditional channels, because of the immediacy in which they offer word-of-mouth contact between consumers.

With that, there has been a natural shift with consumers expecting a platform to interact with companies in multiple channels, and more specifically, through the channel they prefer at that very moment. Email and websites, for example, are increasingly viewed as basic service-level channels.  And social media, in our view, will be no different. The savviest loyalty marketers are already using social media to support the consumers who are clearly expressing that it’s the channel they prefer in certain service situations.

Another shift we’ve seen is that customer loyalty is now up for grabs. Companies in many industries are making it easier and more streamlined for consumers to switch providers. As such, it’s even more important to preserve customer loyalty through tools like fast, effective social engagement.

How will Verint’s enhancements to its Social Engagement solution impact loyalty marketers?

Koelliker: The recent enhancements to Verint’s Social Engagement solution impact loyalty marketers in a number of ways, primarily offering the ability for companies to see and act on complaints in real-time. This helps allow organizations the opportunity to address issues as they arise and resolve them to prevent further damage and regain loyalty. Social postings are known to spread quickly, requiring businesses to be prepared to address issues and turn around unhappy customers before their loyalty is jeopardized. Social engagement also makes true omnichannel channel communications possible, while also enabling them to use social media as a true service channel. With these enhancements and the tight integration between the Verint Social Engagement and Engagement Management solutions, loyalty marketers can go far beyond monitoring social channels. Now they can respond effectively and achieve a true end-to-end social customer service journey.

In today’s blended contact center, many of the average agents are millennials—who are well-versed in social media and mobile platforms, as well as trained to answer calls, email, and live chat. Verint’s solution will help better equip agents to switch between channels as customer needs command, contributing to faster, more personalized service and ultimately building longer term brand loyalty.

In your opinion, what percentage of marketers use social media wisely to impact customer engagement/customer loyalty?

Koelliker: I don’t think it’s really a question of whether loyalty marketers are using social media wisely to impact customer engagement and loyalty, but instead whether or not they have the tools they need to make social an effective service channel. We saw a real need among marketers for the ability to go beyond monitoring and reacting to customers’ communications via social media on an ad hoc basis and in a reactive manner. The enhancements we made to the Verint Social Engagement solution were designed with that in mind. In some respects, you could say that marketers haven’t been able to use social media to effectively impact customer engagement and loyalty, but again the problem has not been a lack of understanding, but rather the limited availability of effective tools.

What things are being done well in this area and where do the challenges lie?

Koelliker: Marketers are using social effectively in many ways, but again its effectiveness as a service channel is just now being fully realized. One thing that marketers are absolutely doing well – and fully embracing – is appreciating just how much social has evolved and its usefulness as an effective communications method. They also understand that for some consumers, particularly millennials and other tech-savvy consumers, it’s a channel that is already marked by heightened service expectations.

For example, where consumers are willing to wait twenty-four hours for an email reply, they tend to expect a response within an hour on social media. That too has been part of the challenge. Social demands that everything is faster. And, of course, it adds yet another channel that must be integrated fully to achieve a true omnichannel view of and engagement with your consumers. The biggest place where marketers can look to improve in social engagement is to join up closely with the customer service team to provide a unified approach to social engagement across the organization.

What do you foresee as social media trends tied to customer loyalty for 2017 and beyond?

Koelliker: A big trend for 2017 and beyond is how consumers across the board will treat social as another service channel. It will be increasingly understood that even social must be viewed in the context of its relationship with all other channels and not in a vacuum. We’re already starting to see some trendsetters adding social contact channels to their website’s Contact Us pages, offering official Twitter or Facebook accounts as a means to ask questions or receive real-time, engaged support. Marketers will see it as part of the marketing and service mix.

For example, we’ve found that there is a definite tipping point where even the most tech-savvy consumers reach for the phone when there is a heightened emotional customer service issue, yet social is still desired as a customer service touch-point for basic requests and interactions. The use and interest in digital engagement are on the rise for different sorts of customer service needs. Verint’s suite, offering a hybrid of interaction channels, will become a strategic tool for enterprises seeking to optimize customer engagement for a variety of demographics and assisted self-service interests.

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