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Conversocial CEO: 'Companies are scared of the public aspect of social media'

Many brands and businessowners approach social networks like Twitter and Facebook from a market and advertising perspective.However, an increasing number of companies are harnessing social media as anessential product for customer relationship management (CRM).

S&P Global MarketIntelligence sat down with Joshua March, founder & CEO of Conversocial, acompany that helps companies deliver large scale customer services throughsocial and mobile channels. The business has around 250 customers worldwide,including GoogleInc., VodafoneUK and Verizon CommunicationsInc.

S&P Global MarketIntelligence: Why are companies and brands making a shift toward social mediafor customer service purposes?

SNL ImageJoshua March, founder & CEO of Conversocial Source: Conversocial

Joshua March: Most companies today have asocial presence. But for far too long, company contact centers have operated inthe dark ages and focused on delivering services over the phone. The key changewe are seeing is the big shift towards social media and connecting withcustomers predominantly on their smartphones. This has been largely due tochanges in consumer expectations. Customers find it difficult to engage withcompanies in a quick and easy way and data shows that most would, as a result,prefer to get service quickly over a digital channel as opposed to a telephone.

What are the benefits?

Businessesand brands are finding that messaging and social media enable them to connectwith customers through live chat in real time, pushing volume away from phonecalls and into these text-based mobile and digital channels. Investingin these channels as well as promoting them as primary means of contact is as ahuge opportunity to massively reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction.

What are the main hurdles inusing social media for customer services?

Thekey hurdle is the fact that a lot of companies are scared of the public aspectof social media. The problem with not having a social media CRM presence isthat people begin to use social networks as a platform to air their grievanceswithout realizing that this can be an effective channel to receive quick help.This can only change once companies make it clear that social media isidentified as a channel to get resolution on real service issues quickly.

What are your mostestablished and fastest-growing markets for the take-up in social media CRM?

TheU.S. and the U.K. are ourlargest markets by revenue but we are growing rapidly in Northern Europe andAsia, where Indonesia isour third-biggest country by revenue. The reason for this growth in Asiais down to the many countries that massively leapfrogged the traditional web.Everybody's got a smartphone and the majority of their e-commerce takes placeson mobile channels. When customers have an issue with service, they are all onsocial as desktop is less present in these countries. So the volume of mobilecommerce and mobile service is just phenomenal.

Facebook and Twitter are themost-used platforms for responding to customers?

Interms of volume, Facebook and Twitter dominate the market. In fact, Twitter isa strong example of a social network that has really made customer services oneof their strategic priorities and is thus investing heavily in buildingservice-related functionality. More recently, there has also been rapid growthin brands launching live chat services integrated with Facebook's Messenger.[We have also] seen growth in the use of Instagram for one-on-one engagement, particularly fore-commerce and travel brands.

What is the next big thing insocial media CRM?

Oneof the really exciting phases in social media CRM is the trend in peer-to-peercustomer service on Twitter. In the last five years, a lot of telecoms andtechnology business have invested a lot of resources into building these onlineforums of experts and brand advocates that are unpaid but take an active rolein responding to other customers' issues.