Delighting the Customer: Social Media and Digital Innovation & Design

| By: Chia Han-Leon, Lecturer, Enterprise Social Business, NUS-ISS

How is social media a form of digital innovation and design?

Social media is the set of online tools used for social networking purposes. The use of the internet as a channel to enable and amplify social interaction and reach makes it different from traditional and print media. Facebook's newsfeed algorithms enable your message to reach not just your fans, but their friends as well. Besides personal purposes, social media is used for marketing, creating awareness, communication as well as collaboration in a professional context.

Today, organisations and individuals face a rapidly changing environment with burgeoning new technologies, disruptive business models, increasing competition and demands from the community and customers. In this environment, digital innovation and design is becoming a core competency for everyone in the organisation. In terms of marketing and communications, social media has become a necessity.

Social media, in fact, is traditional marketing disrupted and evolved along the digital dimension. Once upon a time, a manager complained that he would rather stick to the use of paper brochures for marketing, rather than get involved in this new "email marketing" channel. That day is long gone for electronic direct mailers but still exists for social media. Social media is the electronic message from the company, evolved to harness the power of online social interaction in order to communicate the company's business messages more effectively. All these channels have evolved or have been forced to follow where customers go. They did not really have a choice - customers dictate where they are willing and not willing to engage.

To make customers happy is a universal aim but in practice it is not as commonly achieved as one might think. How often have you come across a website or kiosk that simply did not work as easily and as effectively as you had hoped? How often did a request for help from the business you want to patronize take too long to respond? There are three things that work together in social media and digital innovation & design: delightful customer service, user experience design and innovation.

Digital Innovation means thinking beyond traditional methods of customer service and also beyond just having the latest technology. Even if you have implemented new technology - or plan to - it often needs to be used in equally new ways to truly harness its benefits. You don't publish press releases or make formal announcements on social media, for example; likewise you do not create websites with static poster images that do not provide helpful links to useful information.

No amount of tech or even talk will help improve customer service if there is a lack of awareness of what the customer really wants or how he/she feels about the transaction with your business. Too often businesses focus on the sale and the technology, instead of the experience. Social media has long been accused of having no demonstrable business ROI when its greatest capability is not making a sale, but making the goodwill that encourages a sale. User experience is key to winning the customer when he or she has the power of choice between your company and your rivals.  A bank with a superior mobile app experience wins more customer goodwill than a bank whose mobile app feels outdated and clunky. A restaurant that converses regularly with customers on social media - including tackling issues and complaints swiftly - gains more customer mindshare than a restaurant that doesn't use social media.

This is where empathy plays a vital role. In both social media design and service innovation, the ability of the employee to understand and predict customer behaviour and act on it, is an important skill. This ability plays into the design of many things, including the choice of words in social media content and user experience design in an app. Design thinking draws upon reasoning, imagination and intuition to analyze business situations and create solutions for customers. It may not occur to many that social media also relies on the same (imagination to create content, intuition to know what appeals to fans and reasoning to analyze behaviour of reach) in its tactics and strategies for engagement and building community trust, collaboration and goodwill. In both cases, the ability to appreciate and predict human behaviour is key, and that is fundamental to good customer service delivery.

For more information on the Digital Innovation & Design courses taught at NUS-ISS, please visit here.