Gartner Predicts that Refusing to Communicate by Social Media will be as Harmful to Companies as Ignoring Phone Calls or Emails is Today
As familiarity with social media grows, customers' expectations about how organizations will use these channels are evolving, according to Gartner, Inc. By 2014, organizations that refuse to communicate with customers by social media will face the same level of wrath from customers as those that ignore today's basic expectation that they will respond to emails and phone calls. For organizations that use social media to promote their products, responding to inquiries via social media channels will be the new minimum level of response expected.
However, not all comments on the social web are aimed directly at organizations. Gartner recommends that organizations develop a framework to deal with social media commentary on relevant topics. The framework must complement how an organization deals with a direct enquiry received through social channels and should address whether a response is warranted, who should respond if it is, and what action is necessary following any response.
To respond or not?
Social media leaders must develop a process for deciding whether to respond to public or client-prompted social engagements. A person or team needs to have the power to decide whether a comment is relevant and whether the issue presented is solvable, or whether there are positive dimensions to what is being said that should be recorded.
It's also important to accept that itís impracticable and counterproductive to respond to everything. For example, if a comment is clearly inflammatory and unsolvable, it is usually best not to respond at all. However, if a person is an existing customer logging a harsh but legitimate complaint, the issue must be addressed publicly, promptly and within the same media it was made.
Who should respond?
Every organization needs a set of rules to define who should deal with different kinds of comment, and a process for deciding how a response will be posted to social media. If no one has been identified to determine this set of rules, that is the first action to take. Then the designated social media leader or team must decide how to categorize comments. For example, some comments about a general issue may simply require monitoring and assessment before a general response is issued, whereas others may require an immediate and personal response and further monitoring.
It's not enough simply to decide which people responds to what -- the act of responding must be made part of their day job or it will be overlooked. It can be challenging to promote this shift in mindset, and it could require changes to performance metrics and job roles.
We've responded, now what?
Some organizations have implemented the first stages of a social media engagement process, but they make the mistake of treating engagements as ad hoc. While over half of organizations monitor social media, only 23 percent collect and analyze data. This means that most organizations do not keep records of interactions occurring on social media and do not keep social profiles for people they have engaged with.
To ensure they are not discarding the valuable information being generated through social media, organizations must create processes for perpetuating customer engagements and for sharing social knowledge throughout the organization. Developing a means for acting on social data will provide a competitive advantage by providing exceptional customer experience through increasingly significant social channels.
Growth-focused Private Companies Embrace Digital Tools for Customer Engagement and Research
In today's highly competitive world of compressed margins and slow economic growth, private companies are looking for new ways to boost revenue. One key way is to engage and learn about customers via digital means rather than strictly through traditional avenues such as direct mail and print advertising. According to PwC USís Private Company Trendsetter Barometer, most private companies (70%) are now doing some form of customer outreach through digital avenues, including via email and company websites. Within this group of Trendsetter companies that engage/research customers digitally, 67% are leveraging social media and mobile devices to that end.
Fast-growth private businesses in particular are embracing digital tools in their customer outreach. Among Trendsetter companies, those that use digital means to engage and learn about customers forecast 11.3% revenue growth over the next year, compared with 6.3% revenue growth projected by private companies that are not using digital tools for customer-engagement purposes.
Notably, private companies using digital means of customer engagement and research to a moderate/great degree also tend to have higher annual revenue ($244 million) than those using digital means to a smaller degree ($191 million).
Digital Tools Deliver Clear Value, But Full Benefits Depend on Data Analytics
Targeted marketing to individual customers -- for instance, via email promotions, text messages, and pop-up ads -- is the top way private companies are using digital technology for customer engagement/research (65%). Half of private companies that are using digital channels for customer engagement/research are also encouraging customers to act as brand ambassadors ó for example, by posting online testimonials about products and services and spreading the word via social media. Roughly the same percentage (48%) use digital means to solicit customer insights for product development, including innovation.
Private companies that are using digital channels for customer engagement are notably positive about the benefits, saying that digital means help their businesses do a better job of marketing their products/services to customers (76% of respondents) and improve customersí experience and overall satisfaction (72%).
Relatively fewer Trendsetter companies are using digital tools to research customers: 43% are using such tools to gather information on customers' behavior and preferences, while 40% are employing digital means to obtain demographic information. Despite these lower percentages, fully three-quarters (75%) of the companies using digital technology in their customer-focused efforts say that doing so helps them obtain better and more useful information.
Three-quarters (75%) of Trendsetter companies consider the customer information they collect (via both digital and traditional channels) relevant to their product development and innovation. This percentage rises to 84% among private firms that use digital tools to a great or moderate degree.
Nonetheless, roughly one-quarter (28%) of private companies have not yet enlisted digital tools in their customer outreach. Meanwhile, among those companies enlisting digital technology to that end, only a minority (28%) believe that doing so is currently helping them achieve lower costs.
Consumers will Spend $2.1 Trillion on Technology Products and Services Worldwide in 2012
Consumers will spend $2.1 trillion worldwide on digital information and entertainment products and services in 2012, according to Gartner, Inc. This amounts to a $114 billion global increase compared with 2011, and spending will continue to grow at a faster rate than in the past, at around $130 billion a year, to reach $2.7 trillion by the end of 2016.
The $2.1 trillion consists of what the consumers will spend on mobile phones, computing and entertainment, media and other smart devices, the services that are required to make these devices connected to the appropriate network, and software and media content that are consumed via these devices.
Mobile services are expected to generate 37 percent of total worldwide consumer technology spending in 2012 -- that is $0.8 trillion -- rising to almost $1 trillion by 2016. Mobile phones will account for 10 percent of total spending in 2012 -- that is $222 billion -- rising to almost $300 billion by 2016. Similarly, entertainment services -- cable, satellite, IPTV and online gaming, will account for 10 percent of total consumer spending on technology products and services in 2012, at $210 billion, rising to almost $290 billion in 2016.
Gartner predicts that consumer spending on mobile apps stores and content will rise from $18 billion in 2012 to $61 billion by 2016, and that spending on e-text content (e-books, online news, magazines and information services) will rise from $5 billion in 2012 to $16 billion by 2016.
The inter-relationships among the various segments are getting more critical. For example, new multidevice rate plans being announced by U.S. mobile carriers are enabling consumers to get more from their devices. These persistent connections to more phones, tablets and mobile PCs will increase the value of entire ecosystem and will drive hardware sales. Partnerships among vendors in different segments are needed to build the bridges among the various platforms and deliver simpler solutions.
Survey Shows IT is at Top of Investment Priorities, Tied with Sales
Board directors are prioritizing customers, core competencies and competitive advantage, according to the second annual Gartner-Forbes 2012 Board of Directors Survey. Half of the board directors surveyed were willing to invest in IT as a means to change the rules of competition, and they had IT as the highest priority for investment in 2012, tied with investments in sales.
Gartner and Forbes surveyed 175 board members in March and April of 2012 regarding their perceptions of the key business issues facing their organizations, and the contemporary aspect of their attitudes toward IT.
The priorities of the board directors in this survey were directly centered on customers, building better ways to drive the business forward through better core competencies, working on sustaining competitive advantage, or innovation. Gartner analysts said all of these are proactive efforts to acquire, retain or develop customers and markets.
Eighty-six percent of respondents said they believe that IT's strategic contribution to the business will increase by 2014.
The fastest-rising priority is pursuing greater diversity in the business portfolio, which will drive mergers and acquisitions (M&As). Gartner recommends that IT leaders review their plans for integrating acquired company systems. They should also prepare plans for divestitures as the investment portfolio is restructured for lower risk.
The Gartner-Forbes 2012 Board of Directors Survey asked board directors to rate each of 30 different choices from extremely low importance to extremely high importance. The top five priorities were:
1. Attracting new customers
2. Retaining and enhancing existing customers
3. Focusing on core competencies
4. Maintaining competitive advantage
5. Fostering innovation
The top spots were dominated by issues that have a direct connection to revenue and profit. The fastest-rising priorities point to the rise of pursuing greater diversity in the business portfolio, which is usually a move to reduce the overall risk of an enterprise.
As boards seeking ways to build or extend their competitive advantage increasingly look to IT as a source of that advantage, Gartner believes that IT-enabled business models will be useful as advances in technology continue to gain ground, and the reputation of IT as a means to improve productivity persists.
Gartner Says Worldwide IT Spending On Pace to Surpass $3.6 Trillion in 2012
Worldwide IT spending is on pace to reach $3.6 trillion in 2012, a 3 percent increase from 2011 spending of $3.5 trillion, according to the latest outlook by Gartner, Inc. Gartner's 2012 IT spending outlook has been revised up slightly from the 2.5 percent projection last quarter.
Gartner's global IT spending forecast is relied upon by more than 75 percent of the Global 500 companies in their key technology decisions. The market segments are analyzed by more than 200 Gartner business and technology analysts who are located in all regions of the world.
However, there are some bright spots for IT providers. In contrast to the rather lackluster growth outlook for overall IT spending, Gartner expects enterprise spending on public cloud services to grow from $91 billion worldwide in 2011 to $109 billion in 2012. By 2016, enterprise public cloud services spending will reach $207 billion.
Worldwide IT services spending is forecast to reach $864 billion in 2012, a 2.3 percent increase from 2011. Demand for consulting services is expected to remain high due to the complexity of environments for global business and technology leaders. Gartner analysts said consulting itself is becoming increasingly technology-based with the rise of analytics and big data, having deep implications on the future of consulting services.
The global telecom services market continues to be the largest IT spending market. Telecom services growth is expected to come not only from net connections, especially in emerging markets, but also in mature markets from the uptake of multiple connected devices, such as media tablets, gaming and other consumer electronics devices.