Listening to the Voice of the Customer: Social Media and Beyond

13 September 2018

With the advent of data connectivity in emerging markets, social media is likely to play an increasing role in people’s lives — including people who have smartphones but are financially excluded. Online connectivity is creating more opportunities for financial services providers (FSPs) to engage new and existing customers, even in remote places: listening to their voices, understanding their needs and adapting products and delivery methods accordingly. But it would be a mistake to assume that social media is replacing the need for direct interaction with customers. In fact, the best approaches to customer engagement combine various ways of interaction.

Fisherman uses mobile phone in Myanmar

Photo: Kyaw Soe Latt, 2017 CGAP Photo Contest

If you’re an FSP, you can’t ignore the role customer engagement plays in customer satisfaction and product use. Gallup research from the United States shows that customers who were “very satisfied” with engagement channels were 65 percent more likely to have opened new accounts or signed up for new services based on conversations they had with company representatives. In many developing countries, FSPs have traditionally found engaging with the mass market to be costly and inefficient. Social media makes it easier to interact with large numbers of people, but providers may want to think twice before relying exclusively on digital channels.

The experience of Wave Money, a mobile money provider in Myanmar, illustrates the benefits of a combined approach. After customer research showed a positive correlation between the number of times customers interacted with company representatives and how frequently they used Wave’s services, the company decided in 2017 to engage customers more frequently across multiple channels, especially Facebook and its call center. Investing in a Facebook presence made sense because 80 percent of people in Myanmar have a smartphone, and Facebook is a popular app. In fact, Facebook is synonymous with the internet in Myanmar. For instance, whereas consumers in mature markets use Google to find information online, Facebook is the default search engine in Myanmar.

The benefits of Facebook as feedback mechanism for current and potential customers soon became apparent. Wave Money accumulated 1.65 million followers, and commenting on the Facebook page became a popular way for customers to seek support from staff. But it also became clear that social media channels alone could not provide a comprehensive enough platform for communication, especially when the products and services concerned were based on concepts new to the market. When Wave Money reached 1 million likes on its Facebook page, it celebrated with a post and a photo. Thousands of customers commented on the main post, and 150 left comments on the image itself, many eager to get in touch with customer support and get information on the company’s services. While initial followers had been tech-savvy app users, newer followers were less comfortable and knowledgeable with technology. More in-depth conversations were required to explain how to download and use the Wave Money app.

That’s why the call center was useful. Wave Money expanded the call center’s role to include not only troubleshooting problems for customers, but also reaching out to customers who’d stopped using Wave’s product to understand why and encourage them to become active again. In a pilot effort last year, call center representatives used a script that showed them how to troubleshoot customers’ issues and then incentivize customers to immediately re-engage with the Wave Money platform. Rather than simply explain how to do something, representatives walked customers through transactions. For example, to help inactive customers learn how to transfer money, call center representatives sent them 1,000 Kyat (less than $1) and asked them to send the same amount back.

Wave Money call center

Photo: Wave Money

The pilot showed good results. Wave Money made 600 calls to inactive users; 169 customers answered and 44 engaged in a transactional “walk-through.” Roughly 78 percent of the customers who engaged in a walk-through went on to conduct an additional transaction within a week, and 15 percent completed two more transactions. Wave Money estimated that it cost approximately $2 per active customer for each successful conversion, based on the number of call hours worked (112 hours) and the transactional incentives accrued. This amounted to half of the cost​ ​per​ ​customer​ ​acquisition of its current marketing efforts. Insights gained from conversations with customers were used to update Wave Money’s knowledge portal, a database of questions, responses and processes that helps call centers to troubleshoot agent and customer issues. They were also used to improve the quality of its call center scripts and responses to customers on social media.

There is a wide range of voice of customer (VoC) solutions beyond social media and call centers. The case of Wave Money simply shows how different channels for listening to and acting on customers’ voices can reinforce each other and help providers solve real business challenges, such as customer inactivity or ineffective marketing. To make VoC solutions effective, they need to be integrated into the business. CGAP’s recently published Voice of the Customer Toolkit offers practical guidance for providers on how to create customer solutions through VoC feedback loops, going from simply listening to customers to acting on what they say.

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