Pinterest

How social media can transform customer service into a powerful marketing tool


social-media-marketing5No doubt you have heard the famous story of a customer who returned a tire to Nordstrom – even though Nordstrom, a high-end clothing store, does not sell tires.  As the story goes, the salesman took the tire, refunded the money, thanked the customer for coming in and invited him back to shop.

This story went viral well before there was such a thing as viral and has forever burnished Nordstrom’s reputation for offering the very highest level of customer service.  It is an example of how customer care, when done right, can be a powerful marketing tool.  And today, in the age of public, social customer care, companies have even greater opportunities to demonstrate their commitment to customers and to reinforce their brand through a channel known as “earned” media.

In this article, I will outline four key activities for using social customer care to benefit your overall organization.  I will then outline several of the many benefits of doing so effectively.

There are four key activities for developing and making use of social customer care:

Lessons-in-Strategy(1) Define your social media strategy

There is only one social ecosystem.  Hence, customer care effects and should be consistent with a company’s overarching social media strategy.  Moreover, any company or brand should be sure to have a strategy before going social.  Begin by understanding the current perception of your brand and category within the social ecosystem.  Take the time to listen to what consumers are saying about you, your peers and competitors and your overall sector.  This will provide some insight into who you want to be – and who you don’t want to be.  If, for example, you don’t like what’s being said, this is an opportunity to influence the conversation.  If you do, this is an opportunity to harness and amplify what people are saying.  The next step, therefore, is to define your desired personality and the tone of your social presence.  This should be consistent with your overarching branding.  You are now ready to outline your social media strategy and how customer service fits into the overall scheme.

social-media-conversation(2) Join the conversation

Identify the appropriate platforms to reach your customer base.  Think about what social sites fit with your brand and, even more importantly, where your customers and target customers are currently going to talk about you and the topics relevant to your business.  Facebook may or may not be relevant or appropriate.  And, in addition to the top-of-mind sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, don’t forget niche communities.  Think about where your influencers are currently influencing.

Define social media guidelines for the organization.  Your employees are already using social media.  Some are using it for professional purposes and, as I mentioned, there is only one social ecosystem, so it’s helpful and important to provide guidelines and education for your employees.  All those social profiles can be a powerful force when properly directed.

Define sound QA processes for social interactions, and assign KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that are appropriate to this channel.  Dedicate and train social customer service representatives.  Choose employees who would thrive in this environment.

Monitor social channels and respond quickly and personally.  Good customer service can amplify your positive message, but bad customer service gets amplified even more quickly.  Don’t leave social feeds untended over the weekend, and don’t push out an automated response to customer comments.  People see through this quickly.  Keep in mind three key guidelines for social media: be transparent, be authentic, be respectful.

integration-puzzle(3) Integrate with the organization

Coordinate closely with Marketing and Communications. Ensure customer experience is consistent across all touch points. Capture and integrate social media exchanges into CRM profiles. And develop protocols for how comments and complaints will be addressed and escalated.

Marketing-Intelligence-SMARTe-Inc(4) Gather intelligence

Develop an approach to glean insights from social conversations; incorporate this into your CRM strategy. Build internal operating structure to channel information from customer touch points to product groups.

 

If used effectively, social customer care can enhance brand reputation and value, increase efficiency and provide intelligence for a wide range of business functions.

These are some of the benefits you can achieve:

  • Influence: Retain customers and influence dissenters who otherwise create negative buzz
  • Agility: Anticipate and mitigate risks and identify and leverage opportunities through proactive monitoring
  • Conduit: Maintain a channel for disseminating time-sensitive information from promotion to crisis management
  • Efficiency: Empower customers and employees to become advocates and answer questions
  • Intelligence: Collect insights to inform merchandising, product, format, pricing, promotion and other business decisions
  • Consistency: Have in place a systematic approach for facilitating interactions as opposed to responding ad-hoc
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Pinterest Comes Home


When I first joined pinterest, it was, as its name suggests, a virtual pin board where I would explore and share my interests and passions visually.  The first passion I brought to life was tennis, starting, of course, with Rafael Nadal.  My “Tennis” board was a form of visual poetry as I sought to assign just one word to each compelling or inspirational photo.

I then moved on to the creation of a “Recent Indulgences” board where I could document and share recent purchases.  This was something I had been doing on Facebook for many years by way of a photo album by that name, so the jump to pinterest was quite natural.  And the fact that I could simultaneously share these images with Facebook and Twitter made this an easy transition and enhancement.

Home Furnishings

More recently, I found myself in the position of shopping for a new desk.  As I surfed the Internet and came across items that seemed to fit my need and that I found visually appealing, I found that uploading these images to pinterest was a wonderful way to keep track of the items I discovered.  In fact, by creating a “Desk” pinboard, I was able to see the commonalities across the pieces of furniture I pinned and get a better sense of what I was looking for.  It also prompted me to expand my search by exploring a new direction.  This time around, I did not need to use the handy “pin it” button I had installed a few years back as I discovered that virtually every eRetailer had a pinterest widget incorporated into their website.  Clearly pinterest has become a table stakes component of online retailing.

Pottery Barn Pin It Button

Now that I had this nice compilation of desks, I was able to share my ideas with friends and get their input.  In fact, one friend commented that what I really seemed to need was a new desk chair for the table I had been using rather than a new desk, and so my pin board became about “Desks and Chairs.”

Another element that was really wonderful was that when I pinned an item that someone else had also uploaded to pinterest, I was given an option to click through to that person’s pin board, which invariably provided new inspiration and led me to new websites and retailers featured in the pin board I visited.

Pinterest ExampleI’ve now expanded my board from desks to “Home Furnishings” as I explore dresser options as well.  So pinterest has continued to be a form of visual exploration and expression.  But it has now become a crucial part of my online shopping experience.

I recently overheard someone say that pinterest is not about what people have but about what they wish they had – as if this were some kind of dark secret.  I recalled that when Myspace first came into being it gave teenagers an opportunity to portray themselves however they wanted without being limited by the size, look or location of their actual home.  In this case, the aspirational nature of pinterest is open, exciting and powerful – just like the pin boards of our youth.

Social Media Tidbits II


Visit me here – or on Pinterest – for social media tidbits I find share-worthy.  Share with me your thoughts and infographics you fancy.

Women dominate Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Zynga.  Men dominate Reddit, Google+ and LinkedIn.  Net, net, women are heavier users of social media.

So fantastic!  But… don’t blink, or this LUMAscape will be out of date.  Pinterest? (posted July 2012)

67% of consumers uncomfortable with Facebook’s use of data (July 2012)

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet – 100 million strong — 21 million active in U.S.

Social Media and Recruiting:

Using Facebook during the workday?  Sure!

Which Social Media Activity Do Companies Feel Benefit Them the Most?

I suspect this varies by company, e.g., a customer service/complaint/service oriented company such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Bank of America, etc., might rank customer support higher.  As Ted Schadler wrote in “Empowered,” customer service has become a form of marketing.  Think Zappos and Virgin America.

Playing with Pinterest, Tallying with Twitter


I finally spent an evening (ok late night) playing with Pinterest, and I can see why it’s so addictive. So many beautiful images. It’s visual decadence and indulgence.

It’s uplifting. A great way to spend half an hour… or more. It’s also extremely easy to use with an overall positive vibe (or tone, as Pinterest would say). People are sharing things they find uplifting or attractive or thought provoking, in a light hearted way. As of now, no disturbing images. And wonderful production quality. I wonder how they control for that. Images come from the Internet, so they’re not really user generated – though they are user curated. That maintains this highly polished experience.

But what’s especially nice – it’s all about the details – is the email you get when you sign up: “Hi karenlevine,” it says, “YOU are the newest member of Pinterest, a community to share collections of things you love. We’re excited to have you as a member and can’t wait to see what you pin.” Now that’s just nice.

Twitter, of course, is also addictive, but in a different way. On Twitter, I find myself almost unhealthily aware of how many followers I have. Am I loved??? Am I respected?  It’s like they days when you would come home and rush to see whether you had voicemails.

Every time I post something on Twitter, I watch to see if it leads to more followers – in that vast community of hundreds of millions of people I don’t know. Someone out there shares a topic I am interested in and felt that what I had to say merited following me.

Of course, I also look to see whether I have been retweeted, the ultimate compliment. Or retweeted my multiple people, a real head rush.  And then there are the responses. The exchanges you have with someone you don’t know at all. At social media week, it was truly fun to watch people who had somehow ended up following or corresponding with each other meet in person. And because the avatars are typically photos, it makes it that much easier.