Beyond the initial stage of using social media analysis to track buzz and positive or negative sentiment about a company or brand, more organizations are starting to think of social media as a source of product ideas and another channel for customer interaction. However, many companies don't have the labor or expertise to devote to it, according to Paul Cole, vice president of BPO customer operations at Capgemini.
"This is all still new enough that companies don't necessarily have the budgets or governance structures in place, and they are not sure how to source the competencies," Cole said in an interview. The market ferment of vendors launching new products and services and acquiring each other also makes for difficult decisions for corporations trying to implement social media management internally, he said. "We're saying, 'You focus on keeping your customers happy and loyal, and we'll help you provide the right experience to your customers.'"
Social media demands attention both as an opportunity and as a risk for companies, which can suffer tremendous damage from "brand saboteurs" whose complaints are spread from friend to friend across a social network, Cole said. "The ability for a single voice to cause damage is exponentially greater in the social world." This is particularly a concern in "high passion" industries like travel, entertainment, and gaming, he said.
Capgemini will use software from Attensity, one of the companies targeting social media as the next analytic frontier, with text mining and natural language processing technologies to identify posts and comments of interest on blogs and social media websites.
More importantly, Capgemini will provide the people to review the data gathered by the tool and help its customers make sense of it, or perhaps even reach out to social media contacts on the company's behalf. Cole leads a group that provides outsourced call center and Internet contact center services, to which the social media management service can be an add-on.
"You can't automate your management of the customer," Cole said. "There's always going to be a certain amount of human intelligence and layers of judgment required. You need people who can distinguish between what is chatter, or an aberrant point of view, as opposed to what is real, and actionable, and requiring engagement with customers."
The debate around whether to outsource social media often revolves around marketing, but Cole said Web marketing agencies aren't the best partner for companies that want to take a more systematic, enterprise approach to combing through the data for product strategy ideas and customer service issues demanding a response.
Capgemini will offer three levels of service:
-- Basic social media monitoring for brand mentions and sentiment.
-- Expanded service that also includes analysis of market trends and potential product ideas for the company.
-- Full-service including social customer management services like the ability to identify specific customer questions and complaints and respond to them.
For U.S. customers, personnel for the social media listening services will be based primarily in Texas. Capgemini will take advantage of offshore resources, such as a facility in Guatemala that will handle software configuration "and some of the more repetitive listening services" and an analytics center of excellence in Bangalore, India.
"This does require some sensitivity to language and cultural nuance, so for English in North America we'll keep listening in the U.S.," Cole said. "In general, we'll distribute the work to where it can be most efficient and effective. We do a lot of multi-lingual work in Poland, so we can use those resources for the European community."
One early customer, distiller Brown Forman, has been using the service to monitor reactions to the introduction of its new Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey liquor. The project is too new to say much about results, Cole said, "but I do know they've adjusted their launch campaign as a result of what they've been learning."
Pricing for Capgemini Social Media Monitoring service varies based on the scope of work and level of service, but the price of entry is about $100,000 per year, Cole said. Fees are likely to range into "the low seven figures" for higher levels of service, he said.
See the latest IT solutions at Interop New York. Learn to leverage business technology innovations--including cloud, virtualization, security, mobility, and data center advances--that cut costs, increase productivity, and drive business value. Save 25% on Flex and Conference Passes or get a Free Expo Pass with code CPFHNY25. It happens in New York City, Oct. 3-7, 2011. Register now.