No 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:
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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