Social media success stories are all around us. The evidence just keeps piling up that social media isn't just another channel, it's a whole new way of doing business. Companies like Autodesk, HP and Best Buy save millions per year using social technologies to tap their customers for ideas, solutions and help with word-of-mouth marketing. Socially-savvy businesses like giffgaff and Cisco make online communities a part of their service experiences and not only reap enormous cost savings, but significantly boost Net Promoter Scores.
No question, the social technology cost/benefit story makes it one of the most compelling investments a business can make today. Simple math would have it that getting serious about the social customer experiences we deliver--investing in customer forums, blogs and online communities--is a no-brainer. In fact, for certain industries, across certain use cases, it practically is.
Telecommunications providers like Telstra and AT&T, for instance, have thousands of customers that ask the same questions over and over again. Delivering social customer experiences that enable customers to help each other makes immediate business sense. Companies like HP and Autodesk customers use their products under complex conditions, unique networking scenarios and multiple device configurations. The array of solutions needed to service this complex customer base increases exponentially with every new feature introduction. Enabling customers to share their unique solutions with each other again makes perfect business sense.
For other industries, though, the social cost/benefit story is less obvious. Financial services, for example, have been slow to get serious about social. As a regulated industry, just how to engage social customers is a knot few have untangled.
That's why I love this recent social media success story from Barclaycard. Undaunted by the fact they had no best practice examples in their industries to follow, they got serious about social and made up their own rules. In doing so, they seriously changed the game.
BarclayCard tapped the power of the crowd (their card members) to collaborate on building a better credit card experience. They launched a community where card member could exchange ideas, vote on product features and earn "credits" for their participation. The result is BarclayCard Ring--the world's first community-designed credit card. Because the offering was designed by its users instead of a business unit, it launched with unprecedented features--an enormous differentiator that sets Barclaycard a world apart from the competition in a troubled and suspect industry. Take a look at what Barclaycard Ring card members get. Notice how radically different it is from anything you've experienced from a credit card company in the past.
Barclaycard Ring Member Benefits:
And Barclaycard's novel approach to their social strategy wasn't just window-dressing. This unique initiative has delivered a 50% decrease in complaints and a 25% increase in customer retention--annualized benefits of over $10MM.
The moral of the story is that social offers a good deal of tried and true benefits, but it's also a place where we are free re-think our customer relationships entirely. Barclaycard approached their Ring customers not as sales targets, but as potential partners in the business. In doing so, they used social media to fundamentally change their business model--cut new trail toward a new kind of customer. And by the way, up the ante for everyone else.
If your social strategy doesn't include new ways of thinking about how your social customers fit into your business, it better. 2013 will be a game-changing year for social media. Brands like Barclaycard who are serious about social will make sure of that.
Follow Rob Tarkoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rtarkoff