Vodafone India’s Social Media Strategy [Interview]

Vodafone

Vodafone India, one of the largest mobile network service provider in India is also one of the most engaging brands on the Social Media space.

Vodafone is well known for successfully leveraging Social Media for building online communities and churning out interesting  conversations. Here is an Interview with Anuradha Aggarwal – Senior Vice President – Brand Communication, Insights and Online, Vodafone India on to understand Vodafone India’s Social Media Strategy.

Anuradha Vodafone India Senior Vice President Brand Communication

What was your objective when you decided to adopt social media? Was it only customer service?

Our main objectives for social media was to create engaging conversations about Vodafone, and connecting with our customers to create a bond with the brand.

Vodafone’s overriding philosophy as a brand is engagement via exclusive events, experiences or content for all our fans. We believe that being engagement led creates a lot of positive buzz or conversations which leads to a high level of stickiness for our brand, which in turn creates a virtuous cycle of conversations.

We are also proud that we’ve been able to balance a social engagement model around our brand with real customer needs via a dedicated customer service team who handles all queries on social media, be it Facebook or Twitter. One of our objectives is to answer every query made by a customer on social media, with no exceptions.

Over the years, how do you think your objectives have changed/evolved as the social media scenario unfolded? Or are they still the same you first started out with?

Broadly, the philosophy of the medium has stayed the same: enabling people to have conversations with each other and with brands.

Our objectives have also remained pretty much with this philosophy: create content or experiences which enable people to have a positive conversation around our brand. We dedicate a lot of time and effort to listen to our fans on social media, to engage with them and resolve their queries if any.

What has changed in the recent past is that the metrics available to brands have got much more robust than what was previously available. We now have access to a huge amount of data about what the fans are talking about, the profile of fans, etc.

It’s a bit easier to formulate a strategy to sub-segment our followers, and to be able to address them with content created specifically for each segment.

You have two Facebook pages, one is the Vodafone India official page and the other is the Vodafone Zoozoo page. What was the objective behind having separate pages?

The Vodafone India is our corporate presence on Facebook. That’s the place for all company related news, updates, offers. It’s primarily used to interact with customers for their queries and to let them be in touch with Vodafone India as a company.

The Zoozoos started off as a brand community page and were a great hit on Facebook from their inception. During the first wave of Zoozoo advertising, we saw a lot of love for the Zoozoos, with a lot of fans creating their own content.

We had set up the Zoozoos page as a primary destination for fans to access exclusive Zoozoo stories and content. The Zoozoo page quickly skyrocketed to 6 Million Fans.

 How difficult is it to manage two different pages and listen/monitor two different kinds of conversations?

It’s not easy, but neither is being one of the most trusted service brands in the country or the most admired marketer! We manage with a dedicated team, good processes and exhaustive tools.

 Recently, Vodafone had a crisis like situation when the hashtag #BetterThanVodafoneService was trending on top of Twitter and a lot of people started using it. What was your plan of action when you first saw it? How did you face such a crisis?

In any such crisis, we realise that the originators are probably one or two customers who have had a really bad experience. We seek to identify the root cause of the problem and move quickly to resolve that.

There’s usually no getting away from a crisis: we confront it head on, resolve matters as quickly as we can to the customer’s satisfaction, and leave it to the customer’s judgement whether he or she wants to tweet about our response. We typically find that most customers are as happy to take to social media about a speedy resolution as about a bad experience.

Do Facebook custom tabs work any more post the timeline change? I am asking because you have a ‘Happy to Help’ tab on both of your Facebook pages and I would like to know how the tab is performing.

Tabs work selectively. Some of our tabs have been great successes. Currently, our Share n’ Win tab on the ‘Made for’ campaign gets more than a 1000 hits a day. We get a fair share of queries on our Happy 2 Help tab, with around 15—20% of all our queries being handled via the tab.

I am a Vodafone user and I am impressed that you always call me up whenever I tweet out a query/complaint. I am really eager to know how your customer service channel works when it comes to social media. What is the information flow like?

We have a dedicated online team pro-actively monitoring customer complaints on social media. When we identify a complaint (which is either addressed directly to us or is picked up by one of our proprietary tools), the online team moves to correspond with the customer, pulls up his/her history and takes corrective stuff to resolve the issue.

Offline intervention is occasionally needed, and the online team passes information on the customer query to the offline team as and when needed. The resolution however is typically closed by the online CS team.

It’s a model we arrived at after a lot of iteration basis our experience and we are proud that our total resolution on customer service is between 4-6 working hours.

What percentage of your total customer queries come from social media? How has the trend been over the last few years?

This is confidential; as it’s easy to guess, the trend has only been upwards for the last few years.

Apart from solving customer complaints/queries, have you used the insights and data generated by social media for market research and product feedback?

On occasions yes, but we have a much larger base for research and feedback to use for research.

Being in the service sector, how do your measure the success of your social media campaigns? What are the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that you monitor?

We check fan engagement levels, growth, volume of conversations, sentiment. We have a few other internal metrics which we report to the top management.

Your listening/monitoring on Twitter is really great. What tools do you use that help you in spotting customer complaints/queries?

Most of the tools we use are proprietary, developed by our partners in Hyderabad.

Please introduce us to the team behind your social media efforts

We have a dedicated internal team for customer service. They are helped by a much larger agency sitting out of Hyderabad. Facebook is again managed by the brand team with a lot of assistance from our agency in Mumbai.

On social media, people often go hammer and tongs against brands and start bashing them.. at times just for fun. Do you think, in that sense, social media has actually been a bane for brands?

We think it’s worked both ways. Social media has given power to both fans and brands. For all the bashing that brands get, there have been a lot of brands being shown a lot of love by fans. Social media has changed the rules of marketing to a large extent, and we believe it’s a force for good and here to stay.

How do you see the Indian social media scenario panning out in the next 5 yrs?

5 years is a long time in social media. That said, we’re pretty sure that good, responsive, engaging brands would always be on top and drive conversations about themselves. Is the future a Facebook page, or a social media mobile app or an entirely new service – the future is probably as dynamic as the present.

As a brand we have always stayed ahead of the curve on social media. We are the pioneers for Customer Service on Twitter in India (and also with a tab-based approach for Customer Service on Facebook).

We have experimented with eCommerce on Facebook with our web store  we have created perhaps the best live-streaming experience this year with a live stream of Lewis Hamilton driving his F1 car in Mumbai. Every year, we see the need to innovate on this medium and create something new just to stay fresh!

Key Takeaways from the Interview:

  • Good, responsive, engaging brands would always be on top in the near future.
  •  Social media has given power to both fans and brands. For all the bashing that brands get, there have been a lot of brands being shown a lot of love by fans. Social media has changed the rules of marketing to a large extent. It’s a force for good and here to stay.
  • Most customers are as happy to take to social media about a speedy resolution as about a bad experience.

 

 

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