Posted on 05 Jan 11
I read the following article (abridged and edited for this publication) in a recent edition of Mashable (written by Maria Ogneva, director of social media at Nimble) and thought it’s apropos for our industry. We’re all about customer service – it’s the cornerstone of our success. And social media has brought a whole new world and platform to create positive customer experiences. But the first thing Ms. Ogneva recommends is that you’re confident in your ability to support the collaborative process involved in social media before investing in a full-scale social media effort. She then recommends following these simple steps:
1. Listen and respond. You should be listening for signals from social media for needs of existing and potential clients. You want to engage proactively: listening at the point of need; as well as reactively: listening for indicators that someone may need help. To provide a personal example, Virgin America effectively and quickly responded to a need I had via social media. Unlike its competitor, Virgin got back to me very quickly, taking care to resolve the issue in the backchannel instead of sending me to an 800 number.
2. Cross-reference social and internal customer data. Is there anything that could have made the Virgin example even better? Certainly! It would have been even better if the company automatically knew my frequent flyer number without me having to message it. To successfully serve someone or give them an unforgettable experience, you need to know what your relationship is with the person who tweeted, your history of communication, as well as purchase history, if it’s a customer. For example, at my company, we help you cross-reference people from the social media stream (either your own or as a result of tracking keywords) to the internal record for a full 360-degree view.
3. Understand context of relationship. Quick caveat: this new level of customer intelligence should be used in context of the relationship. While the customer may want you to get the full scoop on him or her in a customer service scenario, a company should never appear like it is using the personal information of someone who has no relationship with the company.
I once had a sub-par experience with a major financial institution where I couldn’t get in touch with customer service. Exasperated and in a panic, I complained on Twitter after which the Twitter rep got back to me promptly. Before I could even write back with details about my situation, she proactively e-mailed me via the e-mail address on record. In this case, it wasn’t creepy and actually provided value, because we had a relationship, and I knew the company had my e-mail address.
Of course, if an existing customer is having a bad experience, your first priority should be fixing the experience, communicating it back to the user and asking this person to keep voicing feedback and opinions. This will increase brand affinity and create an experience worth sharing with others. Whether your customer is having a good experience or bad, it’s key to create a participatory channel in which ideas can be voiced and captured, and progress communicated back to the customer.
As you do all of the above, make sure that your team -- as well as key external parties -- is on the same page with you. Cross-reference social data with internal data, retain and reference current and prior conversation threads and ensuing actions items.