A tweet from Amitabh Bachchan this January addressing his telecom service provider for help had a rival chiming in offering its services. When Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the poster boy of the cashless economy, mentioned the additional data he got from his operator, a competitor jumped in with a better offer.

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly being used by companies across industries to interact real-time with their customers. In the telecom industry, where companies are fighting an intense war for market share, these platforms have become a tool to sell products, engage continuously with customers and provide quick response to complaints and demands. At telecom companies, social media teams keep an eye on every feed across mediums for any move by rivals as well as watch for disgruntled subscriber, be it their own or of a competitor. The teams are expected to resolve the issues quickly and the companies are ready to pay big money for social media analysts.

“Telcos have forever been dealing with high churn rates and the work of support centres has now been taken over by social media teams,” said Anshul Gupta, the research director at technology research firm Gartner in India. “The power to link business to consumers in sectors like telecom, banks and consumer appliances now lies with these teams who are trained to make sure no error is repeated and tweak the response within the turnaround time.”

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator, said social media is a priority channel for the company which has transitioned from being a marketing channel to a consumer experience channel.

Its social command centre, headquartered in Gurgaon, is named CLTR A and is made up of three key units — Creative, Analytics and Response — with a subject matter expert managing each vertical.

“Right from basic query response to issue resolution to service visit alignment — this team is empowered to complete the full process. The advisers go beyond text and tweets,” said Airtel.

For its just launched Airtel Internet TV, the team has self-help videos which are served real time to ensure that the issue resolution happens in the most seamless way possible. Vodafone’s Siddharth Banerjee, the executive vice president for marketing, said his company’s social media team ensures that all consumer queries are tagged and responded in 15-20 minutes.

“All relevant conversation or buzz about anything in the category gets picked up by the command centre and then the relevant stakeholders, within the company, are sensitized,” said Banerjee.

India’s No 2 telecom company has dedicated social media resources from the Vodafone Brand Team and its partner agencies, who work closely with business teams, creative and media agency, public relations and response management teams, he said. These media teams mine data and customer insights. Airtel said in its ongoing ‘Airtel Postpaid Promise’ campaign, the company used conversations with customers to understand the post-paid user’s frustration areas. “These helped us launch products like Data Roll Over in the market,” said the firm. The latest entrant into the market, Reliance Jio Infocomm, has a social media team that is aligned to businesses for quicker response to any issues escalated to them. Jio’s apps like Jio Music also have their dedicated social media team. The company did not respond to ET’s queries.

Telcos are ready to pay big bucks to social media analysts. Executive search firm Ema Partners said it has mandates from Indian companies to hire social media experts where the salaries could range from $150,000 to $250,000 (Rs 96 lakh to Rs 1.6 crore).

“We are looking at social media companies of all sizes and candidates are expected to have enough business exposure to know how to reduce operating costs and give better returns for the marketing spends,” said A Ramachandran, a senior partner at EMA Partners.

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