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7/19/2010
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Enterprises Failing Social Media Test

Siemens study highlights the disconnect between the majority of consumers who want to use social media to connect with businesses and the few companies who are prepared to meet the demand.




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Although 70% of consumers want to interact with businesses using social media, less than one-third of companies have the strategies, policies, and processes in place to meet this demand, according to a report.

The relative handful of organizations already addressing how to communicate with customers using social media could do a better job, finds the study, which was conducted by the Yankee Group for Siemens Enterprise Communications, which develops unified communications and contact center solutions. After all, average consumer satisfaction with current business interactions via social media is just 65%, the report found.

"Social media is changing the way businesses, customers, and employees interact, and this creates significant opportunities for contact centers and the enterprise as a whole to leverage the integration of these tools into business processes," said Zeus Kerravala, senior VP of enterprise research at Yankee Group. "As integration of social media improves within the contact center and with unified communications and collaboration, businesses can improve customer interactions and positively impact employee productivity and collaboration."

In fact, 58% of respondents credit regular communication via social media for enhancing loyalty to a business, the poll determined.

But social media is not only beneficial for consumer relations, according to Yankee Group's report. Corporations also can use the technology to improve internal operations and employee effectiveness: 67% of employees said they need more tools to track and manage their social communications for business reasons, the study said.

With the goal of meeting this customer and employee demand, Siemens Enterprise today began offering OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integrations for unified communications and contact centers. Available through channel partners and Siemens' professional services organization, the technologies are designed to help corporations incorporate social media -- ranging from Facebook and Twitter to internal social networking sites -- into day-to-day operations, Ross Sedgewick, senior director of large enterprise solutions marketing, told Information Week.

"The integrations are not necessarily pre-defined and plug-and-play. They're going to be driven by which media outlets have the business impacts -- professional or consumer," he said.

Midsize and large organizations can use OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integrations to automate and aggregate social media tools and contacts with their existing desktop communications, allowing users to easily collaborate and monitor customer and partner activities, according to Siemens Enterprise. To improve customer service, employees can escalate social media dialogs using one-click technology, moving into multi-party audio- or video-conferencing to resolve a customer problem.

The solution is customizable and adaptable, with businesses able to select as many or as few features as they want or need, then evolve and expand over time, said Sedgewick. Pricing varies, depending on the capabilities, services, and scope.

Since first unveiling a working prototype at VoiceCon in 2009, Siemens Enterprise has worked with several customers, including Henry Ford Health Systems and LateRooms.com. Dozens of customers have expressed interest in the technology, Sedgewick said.

"We see social media as a rapidly emerging interaction channel for our clients, and adding social media capabilities including web presence, web chat, and other tools, is another way we can deliver better and faster service to our patients," said Lefka Simeon, administrator at Henry Ford Health System Contact Center, an early user of OpenScape Fusion Social Media Integrations.

Initially, consumer-facing businesses are expressing the most interest in the technology, said Sedgewick. Geographically, North America and the United Kingdom are expected to lead adoption, he said.

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